What Advertisers Need to Know About How People Discover Videos and New Shows

New study from IAB reveals how people find what to watch

A new study from the IAB highlights how TV, subscription-based, and online video viewers discover what to watch. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Sami Main

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has released a study about how viewers watch both TV and subscription-service entertainment like HBO and Hulu and how people discover new content to watch.

The study doesn’t perfectly predict how future generations will watch or discover programs, said Eric John, deputy director of video at the IAB, in a blog post. What it highlights are points along the customer journey—how they hear about, search for and find programs.

The percentage of people who watch traditional TV is more evenly spread out among age demographics than you might expect, with the majority of those viewers falling in the 18- to 34-year-old range and female. For subscription-service viewers, a majority were male in the 18-34 range.

All charts courtesy of IAB

The study also shows how viewers hear about new projects. For TV shows, commercials on television seem to do the trick for 56 percent of people, while word of mouth works for 47 percent. Once people hear about a new TV show, most use their TV’s guide or menu to find the actual show, while about a third of them use a subscription-service menu to find it. Once they’ve decided on a program, 54 percent of TV viewers watch it live, 38 percent stream it and 31 percent record it on their DVR.

For shows on subscription services, the breakdown is more diverse. Viewers mostly rely on word of mouth to pick new shows, but recommendations from the service, TV commercials and other browsing methods factor in as well. Viewers then find the show mostly by searching on the service’s menu, searching online or looking it up on YouTube or a TV network’s site or app. Then, 95 percent of viewers watch the show via the streaming service itself.

According to John’s blog post, ads continue to play a role in discovery and influence consumers’ content choices. In the IAB’s study, viewers of TV, subscription services and original digital videos all strongly indicated that ads have an influence on what they watch on each platform. Thirty-nine percent of original video viewers that respond highly to ads regard those ads very highly.

The survey suggests that content creators should become more familiar with cross-platform distribution. John notes that “testing and optimizing a variety of packaging and bundling strategies” is the best way to meet consumers’ demands.

John suggests advertisers prepare a full media mix from TV commercials, social platforms, and magazine and newspaper ads to help spread word of mouth advertising. By ensuring your messages are on all possible platforms, you’re able to make sure a non-Facebook user, for example, might still hear about a new show from their Facebook-using friends.

“Creative and messaging must be designed in device and context specific ways to be effective, particularly for mobile users,” John wrote. “The IAB and the Video Center of Excellence will continue to examine the changing nature of video content consumption and its implications for advertising through the continued convergence of television and digital video.”

@samimain sami.main@adweek.com Sami Main is social editor for Adweek, where she posts Adweek content onto social platforms and looks for creative ways to communicate what's new.