ViacomCBS commissioned a ground-breaking study using cultural tracking, a nationwide quantitative survey and consumer and expert interviews to craft a highly nuanced look at audiences and their individualized content pathways. The result is The Culture of Streaming study.
The Culture of Streaming Study
On-demand content today is more than just leisure consumption. It’s a library of feelings that enables us to explore fantasies and craft identities. In other words, because of the hyper-personalized way we consume content today and our dislocating experiences during the pandemic, content now connects deep into our psyches. This holds valuable lessons for marketers and media planning.
Ø Borderless Identities. With the explosion of accessible streaming content and personalized algorithms, consumers now have the opportunity to explore and craft private identities. “In our study, 41% say that there’s a show, movie or online video that they love to watch that a stranger would find surprising or funny because of how their life would appear. Advanced targeting capabilities can model your audiences and find ways to connect with them wherever they are and beyond a broad demo classification” explained Mary Kate Callen, Vice President, Creative Strategy & Cultural Intelligence, Velocity, ViacomCBS. The lesson is that marketers must refocus their targeting strategies as legacy demographics no longer work.
Ø Library for Living. Content helps us find meaning, regulate emotions and guide new areas of personal growth. “People are complicated and nuanced and our ability to forge our own micro-culture identities has been accelerated by access to different content, culture and experiences,” she noted. Therefore, quality culture-defining programming is now a must-have for marketers.
Ø Intimate Screens. Because of the intimacy of screens, the content we consume fosters a sense of belonging which can sometimes lead to obsession. She explained that, “If people don’t always fit into boxes, we need to advance the way we think about finding those audiences and where they are.” The takeaway is that marketers need to reach all screens at scale.
The Impact of the Pandemic
“The rise of streaming over the last several years has enabled viewers to have more control over their own entertainment and content toolkit,” explained Callen. She noted that the pandemic has accelerated those behaviors in the following ways.
1. More control over when and how one consumes content. “Thirty percent of Americans say they’ve snuck in watching content while they were supposed to be working,” noted Callen.
2. Using content as a portal and a salve to manage emotions. She noted that, “Americans are using content as therapy and as a way to connect to others and to process a complex and uncertain world.”
3. New streaming services were launched and existing streamers pushed a lot more content during the pandemic. As a result, many people missed physical connection so they glommed onto standoms and connected with others via content. “Thirty percent found themselves ‘going down an internet rabbit hole’, tracking down content across media and 9% or about 20M thought about getting a tattoo based on a show,” Angel Bellon, Senior Director of Creative Strategy & Cultural Intelligence at Velocity, ViacomCBS, shared.
According to Callen, these current behaviors are accelerators. “We believe many will last beyond lockdowns. Of course, as office work and commutes return to normal, some of the time spent shifting content may reduce but also may not go away entirely as remote and hybrid work environments will be more common What we do expect to continue post-pandemic is the ability to control your own content toolkit.”
The pandemic also created a greater sense of family who were grateful for the extended quality time they shared with each other. “Content brings families and people closer together. Nearly 1/3 of people have deepened their connection with someone because they realized they were fans of the same show,” expressed Bellon who added, “Thirty percent of people have found someone more attractive because of the TV shows they loved.”
The Role of Technology
Algorithms help to guide content engagement, “and with so much choice, curation is necessary,” explained Callen. “But,” she added, “this year, ‘what did you do this weekend’ was replaced with ‘what are you watching.’ The desire to connect with others through shared viewing – either via live or linear – has never been greater. People found shared connections with others through fandom of a show.”
In fact, Bellon explained, “We are seeing the rise of a Content FOMO! It used to be about experiences but now it’s about shows. In our study, we learned that 71% says they’ve been excited to talk with someone about something they watched but couldn’t because the person hadn’t watched it yet.”
The degree to which fans are willing to forgo certain things if threatened with missing their favorite show’s finale was surprising; 33% would give up using social media for a week, 19% would give up caffeine for a week, 17% would give up romance for a month, 10% would give up showing for a week, 10% would pay $50 for a single episode, 7% would forgo a professional haircut.
The Impact of Content
This past year, content became an outlet, an escape and, “a place for storytelling that connects us to our emotional well-being. Fifty percent of people have used a show, movie or online video as a form of therapy. Twenty-eight percent of people claim that a TV show has already helped them become a better person,” stated Callen.
According to Bellon, “We see nostalgia as having evolved into more of a timeless present – nostalgia for your own past but also nostalgia for a past you yourself didn’t experience. Gen Z are watching shows that they weren’t alive (or too young) to have watched the first time. Twenty-six percent of audiences have become obsessed with a show that was popular before they were alive.” This exploration for content is expected to last long after the pandemic is over.
The Path Forward
At this pivotal moment, marketers need to refocus their targeting to better engage and reach borderless identities, connect with quality culture-defining programming and reach all screens at scale. This can be achieved by employing ViacomCBS EyeQ which is an integrated product suite that enables planners to be where the pertinent audience is, no matter how eclectic, unexpected and varied their navigation through content might be. To view the full report click here.
This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com