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Co-Opting Co-Viewing

At the 2018 Media Insights and Engagement Conference, Marc Normand and Lyndsey Albertson of Disney-ABC Television continued their discussion of co-viewing, a topic Disney-ABC have been exploring for a number of years.

Aside from the obvious implications of co-viewing to Disney’s kids- and family-oriented content, co-viewing is important to the much of the general industry for several reasons:

  • Three quarters of viewing can be classified as a co-viewing experience
  • Without consideration of the co-viewing audience, particularly for digital, a sizable chunk of viewers (and money) are being left on the table
  • Co-viewing can often enhance and increase engagement with the content

According to the Disney-ABC study, viewing dynamics change when there is co-viewing – there is more live viewing and more viewing on larger screens. These findings make sense; content impelling co-viewing can often be of the “water cooler” variety. And, of course, more people watching a program the bigger the room, and typically the larger the screen.

Perhaps the most notable finding in the presentation was the concept of “convergent” viewing. Typical definitions of viewing would split the audience into 47% co-viewing and 53% alone viewing; however, Disney-ABC proposes splitting the latter “alone” category into “truly alone” and “convergent” categories. Convergent viewing is that which may be viewed solo but is discussed with others, either remotely at time of viewing or after the fact either in person or via todays other options like social media. It’s not viewing together but “together-ish.” Truly alone viewing is just that; one watches but doesn’t discuss the programs with others.

If these definitions are put into place, then by Disney-ABC’s calculations, program viewing falls out to be 47% co-viewing, 21% convergent viewing, and 32% truly alone viewing. Thus two thirds (68%) of viewing falls into Disney-ABC’s “together-ish” classification.

The benefits of together-ish viewing for both programmers and marketers is shown by survey results that indicate engagement with both programs and ads are significantly greater than for truly alone viewing, emphasizing the importance of measurement systems to include co-viewing as a standard measure. While the television currency measures this (if the other household members or guests in the room are entered into the meter), no digital measure captures this – whether it’s streaming on smartphones, tablets, or connected TVs.

It may be some time before co-viewing is measured as standard across all viewing, if for no other reason than it could require the shift of digital measures to being a true persons measure rather than being a device measure attributed to people. The likely outcome is a long road, like we saw for out-of-home viewing; a need for custom measures to fill in the gaps until enough momentum builds to make measurement of co-viewing technically and financially viable for measurement vendors.

About the Author: David is an award-winning media research expert, providing clients with insights into media adoption and use for over 23 years. He is currently principal of TiceVision LLC, a media consultancy. He can be reached at david@ticevision.com.

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