Deloitte Digital Democracy Survey: More Digital Omnivores, More Distraction

By Adam Flomenbaum 

digitaldemocracy (1)Two weeks ago, Deloitte released the eighth edition of its Digital Democracy Survey, which measures the digital consumption trends, preferences, and attitudes of 2,000 consumers ages 14 and up.

While many of the trends are unsurprising, the rates at which they’re evolving are. For example, 37 percent of U.S. consumers are now “Digital omnivores”  (those who own tablets, smartphones and laptops), which is a whopping 42 percent increase year-over-year. Women comprised 35 percent of digital omnivores two years ago; now they account for 45 percent of the group.

The results of the Digital Democracy Survey make it clear why cable networks continue to invest in second screen applications and social programming: more devices means more distraction.  86 percent of U.S. consumers multitask while watching TV (up from a little less than three quarters in 2011). Still, only 22 percent of multitasking activities directly relate to the shows being watched. Bridging the gap between the 86 percent and the 22 percent has become the chief concern of social TV producers. 

For more insight into the results of the Digital Democracy Survey and its implications for traditional linear networks, TV manufacturers, and consumers, Lost Remote spoke with Alma Derricks, Director, Deloitte Consulting, and leader of the “Digital Democracy.”

Lost Remote:  What are some of the implications for traditional networks and for TV manufacturers with the extremely important trailing millennials (aged 14 to 24) demographic indicating that they now spend more time watching television and movie content on non-traditional devices than on TVs?

Alma Derricks: There are slightly different answers for the two stakeholders you mention:

With streaming and DVR viewing on the rise, traditional networks are already embracing their role as a curator or taste-maker vs. a classic programmer that choreographs content presentation based on time of day. As individual shows continue to take center stage, there’s a risk that audiences will not recognize or recall the presenting network. This makes it extremely important for networks to think critically about their overall branding and find ways to remind viewers that they are the “host.” This includes being strategic about distribution partnerships as well as co-marketing arrangements. To date, brands have chosen options ranging from exclusive, self-contained distribution platforms to partnering with leading multi-brand content distributors. It’s likely that both models will coexist for quite some time.

For TV manufacturers, a couple of things are clear: First, the number of consumers connecting televisions directly to the internet is on the rise. It’s becoming table stakes. Second, even though sales of flat panel television are leveling off as they reach market saturation, TVs are still among the most valued household devices. What’s not clear is whether embedded smart-TV functions like social media feeds and email are really that compelling. Millennials are major multitaskers, but they seem to value the independence of a la carte devices – e.g. having a smartphone or tablet on their lap – as they watch TV. This is probably because the smartphone is more of a constant companion vs. a TV companion.

LR:  One would think that with the increasing number of devices and ways to consume content that people would be more inclined to give up Pay TV subscriptions, yet only six percent of the consumers surveyed said that they planned to give up their Pay TV subscriptions within the next year. Why do you think that Pay TV has been able to buck the trends?

Derricks: Pay TV has largely become a mainstay in many households and continues to provide the broadest and most current selection of content offerings. Though they acknowledge that they only regularly watch a fraction of the channels they receive, our survey respondents are largely satisfied with Pay TV. It’s also worth noting that, in many cases, these same providers are delivering Internet and phone connectivity at really attractive bundled prices; “the cord” is not just a content-delivery channel. What we may see in the near term is a shift in the configuration of consumers’ bundles, but many of the same MSOs will continue to provide connectivity.

LR:  The survey shows that 86 percent of U.S. consumers multitask while watching TV, yet only 22 percent of these activities relate to the program being watched. How can networks capture a larger share than 22 percent of their multitasking audiences? 

Derricks: From a “glass is quarter-full” perspective, in an increasingly distracted world, attracting a quarter of consumers’ attention isn’t that bad. We shouldn’t expect audiences to commit the same level of attention to everything on the screen. They will binge or appointment-watch shows that they love while everything else will largely be white noise.

On the other hand, from a “glass is three-quarters empty” perspective, this means that, while “second screen” has clearly not hit its stride, there’s still an opportunity for programmers to develop truly engaging experiences. We’re really only at the beginning.

LR:  With the dramatic growth of “digital omnivores” – those consumers who own a trio of tablets, smartphones and laptops – and more and more consumers multitasking while watching TV, should networks consider ways to engage audiences on more than just the “second screen,” but also the third and fourth screens?

Derricks: While it certainly makes sense to promote and build awareness across an array of channels, it’s unreasonable to think that every program has the potential to drive full immersion and engagement across every platform. It’s always been the case that hit shows with devoted fans can’t do enough to engage their audiences. At the same time, it’s unreasonable to expect that less popular or more commoditized content will ever drive the same levels of engagement.