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26 August 2021

TiVo trends of little use to anyone, except to emphasize apathy

TiVo’s video trends reports must steer clear of boring generalities if the vendor wants its consumer data to serve as a guiding beacon for content discovery. Of all the possible trends on offer in the latest Q2 2021 issue, TiVo chose to lead on the average number of video services per respondent rising to 8.8 in the last quarter, up from 6.9 video services towards the end of 2020, a trend which surprises absolutely no one.

Where TiVo’s trends survey needs to knuckle down is into consumer data that can give pay TV operators, streaming companies, advertisers, and technology partners any sort of slight advantage.

It does that in parts, looking at the changing habits in content recommendations and increasing awareness of technologies such as voice search, just not to the extent we would expect from TiVo.

There are some peculiarly consistent results across recommendation software, with TiVo finding a 40% sweet spot across pay TV, SVoD, and vMVPD services, for when viewers actually watched a recommended title. However, that 40% figure is also tied to a more ominous finding, with 40% to 41% of respondents claiming not to take notice of any personalized recommendations across any medium, whether pay TV, SVoD, or vMVPD.

In summary, that’s an average of 40% of viewers left feeling satisfied with their current content recommendations, while another 40% simply don’t bother with recommendations at all, leaving 20% floating around the sometimes satisfied and never satisfied sections. These numbers don’t make for great reading, and will be an area that service providers and their content discovery software vendors will be eager to change.

As the best of a bad bunch, vMVPDs scored highest for content discovery, with 63% of vMVPD viewers finding it “always easy” to find something to watch, while just 2% picked “never easy”.

Whether or not this is a UI thing, or something based purely on the accuracy of recommendations which in turn comes from how vMVPDs are crunching viewing data to deliver these, or a multitude of other factors, remains to be seen – and is precisely the kind of more granular information we want from TiVo.

As well as apathy and impatience, the biggest barriers for content discovery mediums are commercials that run during other TV shows and word of mouth, as the two most prominent ways that viewers discover new content to watch, at 49% and 42%, respectively. Both in-show commercials and word of mouth are sliding though, by 4% and 3% since Q4 2020, as more consumers make use of EPG suggestions and streaming app browsing.

One of the most noticeable changes during the past two quarters based on TiVo’s survey results is the growth in awareness and confidence in using voice technology. Back in Q4 2020, 42% of those surveyed reported having access to voice search functionality, rising to 51% in Q2 2021. This 9% spike is encouraging, although the same cannot be said for actual use of voice search, with 71.3% of those choosing to use the technology at their disposal, an increase of only 0.7% from two quarters ago.

Surprisingly, voice search is most prominent in pay TV, with 42% using it every day, while 21% of broadband-only subscribers use voice search every day. Oddly, this then switches for those who use voice search a few times a week, which is 42% for broadband-only and 37% for pay TV. This implies much more casual use of voice functionality for streaming-only consumers.

That said, there is work to be done. A disconcertingly high 36% of respondents still believe voice search is a gimmick, which is actually up by 1 percentage point on Q4 2020. A further 31% are still not comfortable talking into a device to find something to watch, also up 1% over the two-quarter period. There are fewer concerns about accuracy, however, as only 7% said voice search was not good at recognizing a request, and a further 7% reported incorrect results. Together, however, that’s 14% of voice search users reporting technical problems, which is far too high.

Of those indicating no use of voice search, 12% believe it would be faster to type a search – and this is in fact backed up by TiVo data showing that some consumers are still getting results faster by typing into a search gap. It assures that the gap is narrowing, however.

Looking at discovery time by device, PCs were the surprise frontrunner in Q2 2021 as 56% of computer users reported finding something to watch in less than five minutes, while pay TV set tops came a close second. Smart TV discovery faired much slower at an average time of 11.4 minutes.

Another interesting area of exploration by TiVo, probably done out of pure curiosity more than anything else, is a snapshot of movie theater trends. It quizzed participants on eagerness to head back out into public, finding that 31% are more likely to view movies in a cinema in a post-pandemic world, than they were pre-pandemic, which is an interesting turn of events. Perhaps there is a nostalgia element here, with many consumers conscious of the shifting trends that have caused the closures of many brick and mortar movie theaters.

On the flip side, consumers are also embracing the new normal of studios going direct to consumer via the medium of SVoD, with 58% interested in paying to view a new movie release at home, while 64% would view new movie releases at home once the pandemic is over.