Australia's 'young optimists' deserting traditional TV, research says
If you can rely on television audience data for anything, it is to state the bleeding obvious in rather elegant terms.
Newly released "psychographic" analysis of Australia's TV viewing audience – that is, data which profiles viewers based on their lifestyle, behaviour, attitudes and values – reveals that almost a fifth of Australians watch no commercial free-to-air television at all.
Across the 12-year period that Roy Morgan Research has been assessing viewer habits, the group deserting traditional TV at the greatest speed was "young optimists" – those defined as ambitious, idealistic and tech-savvy.
Historically, televisions ratings tended to group people into three demographics that mattered. The first was grocery buyers, the second 55+ viewers and and the third was 16-39-year-olds.
However, the newly-released Roy Morgan research instead splits Australia into 10 segments that include groups like those seeking a fairer deal or the aforementioned young optimists.
So, what does the data tell us?
Year on year, the number of young optimists who watch no commercial free-to-air television has risen from 26.9 per cent to 32.4 per cent.
Verdict: they're leaving, and in not unnoticeable numbers. But what's not shown is that for the most part they're off to Netflix, YouTube or busy watching Instagram.
Are commercial free-to-air channels losing audience? It depends on your age and your outlook on life.
At the same time, heavy television use (four or more hours per day) in "basic needs" households has risen from 34.7 per cent to 37.6 per cent. Those same households also saw the segment switching off TV shrink from 9 per cent to 7.7 per cent year on year.
Verdict: they're staying, and in some segments, they're on the rise. The problem for commercial broadcasters is that this group lacks the kind of demographic perfume that commercial networks like to spray on their press releases.
In fact, all demographics in the survey reported reductions in their heavy television usage except basic needs households and traditional family lifers.
At the same time, the "look at me" (those who are younger, socially active, peer-driven) and "something better" (retirees or those on welfare) segments reported lifts in their light (less than two hours per day) television viewing.
Verdict: People are switching off on some segments and switching on in others.
Overall, the trend away from commercial, free-to-air television is evident. For every commercial TV viewer who is lost, a pay tv or streaming angel gets its wings – and you don't need stacks of research to tell you that.
Commercial operators follow the smell of money and eyeballs, and television broadcasters would not be diversfying into platforms such as Stan and Tenplay, or even iView and SBS On Demand, if there was not compelling evidence that there were audiences waiting for them there.
The number of “young optimists” who claim to watch no commercial TV has risen from 26.9 per cent to 32.4 per cent.
In a sense, then, what you're more likely seeing is a migration away from commercial free-to-air television to other platforms of delivery, rather than abandonment of television in its entirety.
In statistical terms it's like the "both film piracy and studio box office revenue are at record levels" line of thinking. One does not necessarily cannibalise the other and, in fact, most of the anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the opposite is true.
In pay television terms, that downward trend is of course running in reverse. Broadly, we might look at pay television as a plethora of platforms, but in Roy Morgan research terms it predominantly refers to Foxtel.
All of the 10 audience segments reported rises in pay television consumption across the decade, particularly "young optimists" – remember them, the ones deserting TV in droves? – who have more than doubled from 15.5 per cent in 2006 to 34.4 per cent in 2017.
The “young optimists” deserting traditional TV are pay TV’s fastest growing segment.
A decade ago the two most dominant demographics tuned into pay television were "visible achievers" and those looking for "something better", with 24.6 per cent and 24.1 per cent respectively reporting they were pay TV customers.
Today another segment has edged ahead of them: the "socially aware" of whom 36.3 per cent report regular pay TV usage; "visible achievers" are still there, with 36.1 per cent and the "look at me" demographic now report at 34.1 per cent. (Those poor "something betters" have slipped to 33.5 per cent. Still looking for something better, maybe.)
So what does all this tell you? Less people are watching commercial television than before, and more people are watching pay TV. Hold the presses.
That data, however, must be contrasted with research which shows more people are consuming content, that web browsing is rising in terms of overall numbers, and duration of engagement and subscriptions to streaming services are rising sharply.
For traditional television, these tectonic shifts simply translate to less money.
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