How New Media is Changing TV: Shifts in Consumer Behavior [Part 1]

In this first of three posts based on research from Room 214 and Crimson Hexagon, guest blogger Lauren Maynard examines the ways in which we are connected to our social networks while watching TV. Has what we do when we watch TV become as important to us as the programs we watch?

This guest post, the first of a three-part series, is authored by Lauren Maynard, Director of Research for Room 214, where she leads the agency’s business intelligence practice. Follow Maynard’s conversation on Twitter and the Room 214 blog, Capture the Conversation.
You are likely conscious that the television experience has changed in the past decade. We once participated in appointment TV, taking the time to sit down at a specific hour to watch a specific show. Today, two significant behavioral changes in consumers are redefining the entertainment landscape.

These changes require television networks and advertisers to evolve rapidly to keep their shows, content, and ad buys relevant to a demanding consumer set.

  1. People now consume television via time-shifted DVR, online (legally), online (illegally), mobile device, Internet streaming to TV, and a wide variety of other methods.
  2. Viewers now consume multiple forms of media at the same time, such as watching TV on a television while checking Facebook on a computer. This is commonly referred to as two-, three- or multi-screen viewing.

With these changes have come digital spaces like Facebook, Twitter, and U-Stream in which consumers can find information about, and interact with, a television network or show. While this notion is reaching the mainstream, few networks and advertisers are finding ways to properly capitalize on, as well as monetize, this opportunity (more on this in my next post).

Touchpoints: From Simple to Complex

When television first became a household staple, families gathered together around one device to share in an experience from one of three channels. For a network to reach a consumer, it pushed traditional methods of mass advertising.

Today, households have multiple televisions and watch multiple programs simultaneously. They engage in multi-screen viewing, and consume many streams of relevant and irrelevant data while watching television.
Networks push advertising through a wide variety of channels but, more importantly, consumers now have a measure of control by reaching out to networks through social media and other digital properties, in real time.

How Connected Are We, Actually?

While not all households are highly-connected, it’s important to note the continued penetration of smartphones and tablets, items that are slowly shedding their luxury product association. There are already 141 million 3G subscribers (read: smartphones) in the US. Increased sales, palatable price-points, and widespread adoptions means a huge increase in users at potential touchpoints between networks and consumers.

What We Do When We Watch TV

Over the past few months, I mined over a million conversations in Crimson Hexagon, in which consumers state they are watching some form of cable or internet entertainment. Looking at these conversations, divided by platform, lets us see how consumers express their multi-screen viewing behaviors, and if it differs by platform.


Twitter requires nothing more than a 140-character attention span; it’s easy to Tweet and watch TV at the same time.

  • The number of TV-related posts on Twitter continues to increase, hitting over 300,000 Tweets in January 2011
  • Few mention consumption method (DVR, for example), but 14% do state they are watching a show or movie online through both legal and illegal platforms


Users on Facebook are, predominantly, just letting us know they are watching a TV show. However, because Facebook allows more information to be shared, conversations are longer and more detailed.

  • 22% of users share additional information about their lives, either through context (where they are watching, who else is with them, etc.) or by sharing a list of all their activities throughout the day, including the media the currently consuming
  • 19% of users are starting a conversation about the show