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Q&A: Adtaxi's Murry Woronoff Says Streaming TV Levels Have Surpassed 80% of U.S. Adults in 2024

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A new report by Adtaxi, one of the nation’s fastest-growing digital marketing agencies, has revealed that more Americans than ever are now defaulting to streaming as their primary content-viewing source. The report also detailed many other fresh finds, including the increasing range of devices viewers use, changes in the use of free and paid streaming service subscriptions, the new ways viewers respond to ads, what types of features viewers find to be the most necessary, and more.

Murry Woronoff, Agency Director - Marketing Research and Consumer Insights at Adtaxi, spoke with Streaming Media’s Tyler Nesler about many specific aspects of the report and what the findings reveal about the current state of streaming as the industry rapidly evolves.

Tyler Nesler: The report found that over half of the most unlikely targets stream TV, including older Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and those with household incomes below $35,000. Was there any comparative data available as to how much this has changed in the last few years and any reasons as to why these groups are increasingly turning to streaming services?

Murry Woronoff: The consistent uptick in streaming TV consumption among older and lower-income adults is attributable to two pivotal factors, showcasing a significant shift in viewing habits. Initially, those aged 55+ were predominantly composed of dedicated cable subscribers. However, in recent years, they've increasingly joined the ranks of cord-cutters, diverging from traditional cable in favor of streaming services. This transition is contrasted with younger adults, who predominantly fall into the cord-never category, having bypassed cable subscriptions entirely.

A notable driver behind the surge in streaming among the 55+ segment is the gradual aging of the 45-54 demographic into this older cohort. This group brings with it a higher inclination towards streaming, thereby amplifying the overall streaming activity within the 55+ segment.

The broad adoption of technology, particularly streaming, serves as a significant catalyst for this trend across both demographics. As of now, an impressive 97% of U.S. adults have internet access, underscoring the widespread reach of digital platforms. The pandemic era's digital engagement surge has shown remarkable endurance, with usage levels continuously on the rise.

Cost efficiency stands out as a compelling incentive for both segments as well, positioning streaming as an attractive alternative to cable and other alternatives. This cost-saving aspect, combined with the expanding digital infrastructure and evolving consumer behaviors, underscores the dynamic nature of media consumption and the growing preference for streaming services over broadcast and cable television.

Graphic courtesy of Adtaxi

Tyler Nesler: The report found that in response to ads, over half of viewers (51%) go directly to a company’s website, 40% look at the company’s social media, and 36% consider a company review. What are some ways you think advertisers can optimize and streamline viewer response to ads in terms of making it easier for them to directly engage with the product being advertised and to facilitate a purchase more easily?

Murry Woronoff: The findings highlight a crucial aspect of contemporary advertising effectiveness: the direct engagement of consumers with brands post-ad exposure. Over half of the viewers transitioning to a company's website, coupled with significant engagement through social media and company reviews, underscores the integrated role of digital touchpoints in the consumer journey. To optimize and streamline viewer response to ads, thereby facilitating smoother engagement and purchase processes, advertisers should consider the following strategies:

  • Seamless Website Integration - Ensure that the landing page is directly linked to the advertisement's call-to-action (CTA).
  • Social Media Synchronization - It’s imperative to maintain active, engaging, and up-to-date social platforms. Integrating shoppable posts or direct links to products can convert interest into action swiftly.
  • Leveraging Reviews - Making reviews easily accessible and highlighting key positive feedback can build trust and reduce purchase hesitations.
  • Streamlining the Purchase Path - Minimize the steps required from ad engagement to purchase.
  • Personalization and Retargeting - Personalize ad content based on the viewer's previous interactions with the brand. Retargeting ads should direct viewers back to a personalized landing page that reflects their interests and past behaviors.
  • Enhancing Post-Click Experience - Ensure that after clicking an ad, consumers are met with a consistent and engaging narrative that guides them through the purchasing process.

By implementing these strategies, advertisers can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of viewer engagement, transforming ad exposure into actionable outcomes. This approach not only optimizes the consumer's journey from awareness to purchase but also enhances the overall customer experience, leading to higher satisfaction and loyalty.

As evident from our analysis, the landscape of ad optimization is complex and nuanced, influenced by variables such as age, income, and other demographic factors. There's no one-size-fits-all solution in the realm of advertising effectiveness. At Adtaxi, our methodology is grounded in a meticulous examination of our target demographic's activity levels and their responsiveness to various ad formats. Our approach is holistic, embracing a full-funnel strategy that integrates this nuanced understanding at every stage of our campaigns. From the initial awareness phase down to the final purchase decision, our campaigns are intricately designed to not only maximize the efficacy of our advertisers' spend but also to steer consumers smoothly toward making a purchase. This tailored strategy ensures that we deliver the highest possible return on investment (ROI), demonstrating our commitment to not just meeting but exceeding our advertisers' expectations.

Tyler Nesler: You found that, on average, Americans use two different devices to consume content. Was there any data gleaned about which type of device is best optimized for advertising engagement/purchasing conversions? 

Murry Woronoff: The insight that Americans, on average, utilize two different devices to consume content is foundational to understanding the contemporary media landscape. This behavioral pattern emphasizes the importance of a multi-platform advertising strategy. Our data does shed light on how different devices play distinct roles in advertising engagement and purchasing conversions.

Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, emerge as frontrunners in driving engagement. Their ubiquitous nature, combined with the increasing consumption of content on the go, makes them highly effective for capturing attention and facilitating immediate actions. Mobile advertising is particularly potent for driving website traffic, and app downloads, and initiating the customer journey.

However, when it comes to purchasing conversions, the scenario is more nuanced. Desktop computers often lead in this area, especially for more considered purchases. The larger screen size, perceived security, and ease of navigating complex transactions contribute to higher conversion rates on desktops. Consumers tend to use desktops for research-intensive purchases, where they can compare options and make informed decisions in a less rushed environment than mobile.

Our findings underscore that the optimal device for advertising engagement and purchasing conversions is intricately linked to the product or service being marketed, the specific target demographic, and the context in which the advertisement is experienced. This multifaceted relationship highlights the importance of tailoring advertising strategies to align with consumer behaviors and preferences across different devices.

For example, younger audiences demonstrate a pronounced tendency towards completing purchases on mobile devices, a trend that can be attributed to their deep-seated familiarity and comfort with mobile commerce. This insight suggests that advertisers aiming to capture the attention of younger consumers should prioritize mobile-optimized campaigns that cater to the seamless, on-the-go browsing and shopping experiences these users expect.

Conversely, device preferences and usage patterns vary significantly across other demographics, providing valuable cues for targeted advertising strategies. Older adults predominantly rely on desktop computers, reflecting a preference for the stability and larger screen size these devices offer. Men are more inclined towards using laptops, possibly valuing the balance between portability and functionality. Meanwhile, women show a higher propensity for tablet use, which may be linked to the convenience and user-friendly interface of these devices.

In light of this, advertisers are encouraged to adopt a device-agnostic approach, optimizing content for both mobile and desktop to meet consumers where they are. Utilizing responsive design, tailoring messages to the context of each device, and employing retargeting strategies across platforms can enhance engagement and conversion opportunities.

Ultimately, the key to maximizing advertising effectiveness lies in understanding the unique advantages and limitations of each device, coupled with a deep insight into consumer behavior patterns. This enables the crafting of tailored, impactful advertising strategies that resonate with the audience and drive desired actions.

Tyler Nesler: A significant majority of respondents (two-thirds) have observed a rise in the volume of ads displayed while streaming, and of those respondents, half claim the increase in ads has a negative effect on their viewing experience. Did the report reveal any specific insights into why the ads are having a negative effect, and what do you think can be done to lessen these negative impressions?

Murry Woronoff: The findings you've referenced highlight a critical challenge within the streaming landscape: the delicate balance between advertising volume and viewer experience. Indeed, two-thirds of respondents have noted an uptick in ad frequency during streaming, with half of these viewers reporting that this increase detrimentally affects their enjoyment. This negative sentiment is rooted in a fundamental aspect of content consumption - the disruption of the viewer's immersion, or "suspension of disbelief." This psychological engagement is crucial for viewers to become fully absorbed in the narrative, thus enhancing their overall viewing pleasure.

In traditional television programming, the stark contrast becomes evident when considering that a half-hour show without commercials runs approximately 21 minutes. This format adjustment means that nearly one-third of television viewing time is dedicated to advertisements, explaining why a 90-minute film extends into a two-hour broadcast slot. The frequency and placement of these ads can significantly interrupt the narrative flow, detracting from the viewer's ability to immerse themselves in the content.

To mitigate these negative impressions, content providers and advertisers need to adopt a more strategic approach to ad integration. This could involve several key strategies:

  • Improved Ad Relevance - Leveraging viewer data to serve ads that are more closely aligned with the viewer's interests and preferences.
  • Seamless Ad Integration - Exploring less intrusive ways to incorporate ads, such as native advertising or branded content, which can enhance the viewing experience by blending promotions naturally into the content.
  • Limiting Ad Frequency - Establishing a cap on the number of ads shown per viewing session to prevent viewer fatigue and maintain the narrative's integrity.
  • Offering Ad-Free Viewing Options - Providing viewers with the choice to subscribe to an ad-free version of the service.
  • Interactive and Engaging Ad Formats - Utilizing interactive ad formats that engage viewers and offer a more dynamic and engaging advertising experience.

By focusing on these strategies, streaming services and advertisers can significantly improve the viewing experience, maintaining engagement and satisfaction even in an ad-supported model. This nuanced approach to advertising acknowledges the importance of viewer immersion, striving to deliver a balanced and enjoyable content consumption experience.

Graphic courtesy of Adtaxi

Tyler Nesler: I was surprised by the low percentage (22%) of viewers who consider personalized recommendations a necessary feature. Do you have any insights as to whether this is a result of inadequate viewing tracking/data gathering that may have caused viewers to feel that recommendations they received were not as relevant as they would like? (Or any other technical/UX/UI issues)? 

Murry Woronoff: The relatively modest percentage (22%) of viewers who consider personalized recommendations a necessary feature indeed prompts reflection on the underlying factors contributing to this perception. It suggests that the current mechanisms driving personalized content suggestions may not fully align with individual viewer preferences, leading to a perceived shortfall in relevance and value. A key factor in this dynamic is the common practice of basing recommendations on the preferences of the head of the household, which may not accurately reflect the diverse interests of all household members. For instance, if the primary account holder is a 45-year-old male, the generated recommendations may not resonate with other household members, such as a female spouse or a 21-year-old son or daughter. This discrepancy underscores the importance of individualized data in crafting recommendations that truly connect with each viewer.

Recognizing this challenge, Adtaxi prioritizes individual research over household data to refine our approach to personalized content recommendations. By focusing on the unique viewing habits and preferences of each user, rather than aggregating data at the household level, we aim to enhance the accuracy and relevance of our recommendations. This approach acknowledges the diversity of viewer preferences within a single household and seeks to deliver a more personalized, engaging content discovery experience for every individual.

To address the concerns around inadequate viewing tracking or data gathering, and the resultant impact on the efficacy of personalized recommendations, it's crucial for platforms to invest in sophisticated data analytics capabilities. This includes enhancing user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design to more accurately capture and reflect individual preferences. Implementing more granular data collection methods, such as allowing individual profiles within a single household account and encouraging active feedback on recommendations, can significantly improve the personalization engine's accuracy.

By adopting these strategies, content providers can overcome the limitations of current recommendation systems and move towards a more personalized, viewer-centric model. This not only improves the user experience by making content discovery more relevant and enjoyable but also increases viewer engagement and satisfaction, ultimately fostering a stronger connection between the platform and its users.

Tyler Nesler: Sports also remains a less-desired feature for viewers (22%). Do you believe this is because there is not yet enough of a streaming presence for live professional sports? Do people still largely associate it with linear/traditional TV? What are some possible emerging developments in the industry that may change these preferences in the near future?

Murry Woronoff: The nuanced perspective on sports content within the streaming landscape reveals a complex set of viewer preferences and industry dynamics. While it's true that sports programming is not the highest priority for all viewers—evidenced by its ranking as the 7th most-cited criteria for selecting a streaming service—its importance cannot be understated, especially among specific demographics such as men, for whom sports content is a more significant factor.

The current perception that sports are less desired within the streaming context may indeed stem from a traditional association of live sports with linear television. However, this landscape is rapidly evolving. The industry is witnessing an increasing integration of live sports into streaming platforms, a move that's strategically aimed at capturing future audience growth. This shift acknowledges the intrinsic value sports content holds in attracting and retaining a dedicated viewer base.

Significant developments are already underway, signaling a promising horizon for sports enthusiasts within the streaming sphere. Major sporting events, including the NFL Pro Bowl Games, Super Bowl LVIII, the NBA All-Star Game, the Daytona 500, the Masters Tournament, and the Summer Olympics in Paris, are being made available across a diverse array of platforms such as ESPN, ABC, CBS, TNT, FOX, Paramount+, NBC, and Peacock. This broadened access points to a deliberate effort to decentralize sports broadcasting, moving beyond traditional cable and broadcast models to embrace the flexibility and reach of streaming services.

Moreover, platforms like Sling TV, Paramount Plus, and Peacock are pioneering in this space by offering tailored packages and exclusive access to a variety of sports content, ranging from NFL, golf, and soccer to Premier League soccer, Sunday Night Football, Indycar, rugby, and WWE. The upcoming joint venture by Disney, FOX, and Warner Bros. Discovery to launch a new service combining linear sports networks with direct-to-consumer content from ESPN+ is a testament to the industry's commitment to this transition. This service aims to offer an unparalleled range of sports coverage, ensuring that enthusiasts have access to their favorite events across NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, college sports, UFC, PGA TOUR Golf, Grand Slam Tennis, and the FIFA World Cup.

These emerging developments are reshaping how viewers engage with sports content, gradually altering the perception of streaming services as secondary venues for sports broadcasting. As sports content continues to claim a significant share of top-watched television programs, the ongoing shift from broadcast and cable to streaming platforms is expected to accelerate. This transition not only broadens the accessibility of live sports but also highlights the potential of streaming services to become the new home for sports enthusiasts, driving future growth and diversification in the content streaming ecosystem.

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