Ad Agency’s Experiment: A Week Without Cable

Hill Holiday, an ad agency in Boston, recently conducted an experiment to learn how people watch television and how connected television options fit into those patterns. To do that, they chose five families randomly from a group of volunteers, disconnected their cable boxes for a week and hooked them up with devices that enable tv/video watching over the Internet: Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, XBox360, and Boxee.

The results are very insightful, mainly demonstrating that television watching is mostly a “lean-back” or passive experience which is better suited to a cable or “always on” delivery of television than the kind of on-demand experience that any Internet tv experience can be at this point.

The families, when interviewed about their week, said things like “I don’t want to have to think about it”. They pointed out that television watching is a passive experience, but the Internet tv devices required active search and selection on their part. All of them wanted their cable back.

This is an excellent, highly insightful study of traditional versus new delivery and consumption options for television, and I think it’s got a lot to say beyond tv to other forms of content as well. The studiers at Hill Holiday found that when the number of options available increased, the amount of consumption or time spent watching decreased. Because it was more effort. Think about Pandora – one of the things that makes it so appealing is that it’s basically plug and play. You tell them what you like, they play it.

The participants in the study also pointed out that the lack of ability to search multiple services at once for programming was a hindrance – something that not just online tv, but also online radio should think about. Portals that enable the consumer to scan all the content will grow consumption.

It’s a very interesting experiment, well worth the six minutes it takes to watch the video:

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