TV Paradigm Shift?

When major scientific theories (paradigms) are about to change, one encounters confusion. When an accepted scientific paradigm is about to change, scientists find they have to work harder to fit existing data to an older theory.

When a paradigm is accepted,most scientific progress occurs incrementally, by the accumulation new data that then is fitted into the paradigm. When anomalies start to appear often, it can be a sign that the paradigm is wrong.

Eventually, the inability of the older paradigm to explain and predict leads to a revolution in thought and the establishment of a new paradigm. The point is that coherence tends to  be a problem at times when paradigms are preparing to shift.

Such paradigm shifts might be likened to times when eras of technology are changing, as well, without overplaying the analogy. Of course, what changes when eras of technology change are revenue models built on consumer behaviors and buying preferences.

Perhaps one sign of the looming change are viewership studies that product discordant data.

Make no mistake, linear (scheduled) TV is still overwhelmingly the preferred method for watching TV, with 84 percent of U.S. adults who watch television watching live, in real time, according to BroadStream Solutions, despite the popularity of digital video recorders, mobile, PC and tablet viewing.

A separate study by Experian Marketing Services confirms that watching streaming or downloaded video on any device is connected `to higher rates of cord-cutting, the abandonment of linear TV altogether.

But it is not clear how devices such as Chromecast, Kindle Fire TV, Roku or Apple TV, and use of mobile or untethered appliances will change viewing habits.

The fastest growth of “non-traditional” viewing is watching streamed or downloaded video on a television, Experian Marketing Services says.

For instance, while adults who watch video on either a tablet or smartphone are 1.5 times more likely than average to be cord-cutters, those who watch streaming video on a television are 3.2 times more likely to be cable-cutters.

Furthermore, those who say that they use their television primarily for watching streaming or downloaded video are 5.7 times more likely to be cord-cutters.

Clearly, at least so far, watching video on portable personal device is not an alternative to linear TV, though watching streamed video on a TV display could be developing in that way.

The ability to stream or download video directly to the television “seems to be the tipping point,” Experian Marketing Services says.

“We should expect to see the number of cord-cutters grow” as that behavior becomes more common, Experian Marketing Services argues.

Mobile service providers clearly are thinking there is a mobile opportunity as well, even if the study by BroadStream Solutions also suggests that, at the moment, very few Americans want to watch on smaller screens.

That study suggests about two percent of respondents “prefer” to watch on tablet devices. A similar two percent prefer to watch on mobile devices. Some four percent prefer to watch on desktop PCs and about seven percent prefer to watch on notebook PC screens.

On the other hand, the study by Experian Marketing Services found that “mobile is the first screen for online video,” with 24 percent of adults reporting they watch video on a smartphone every week.

Nearly 25 percent of  all adults and 42 percent of smartphone owners watch video on their phones during a typical week, Experian Marketing Services reports.

So there’s a bit of data that doesn’t quite fit. People might not “prefer” to watch on a small screen. Yet there is much evidence that is what they do.

And one useful rule for tracking trends is to pay attention to what people do, not what they say. What already seems to be clear is that lots of people are watching video on small screens regularly.

They also are watching more streamed video on standard TV displays.

But behavior is changing. Most studies are likely consistent in reporting that people do not watch much video on small screens, compared to large screens, and not so much long-form content. But all that continues to change.

One explanation for those findings is that people need to own small screen devices in order to use them. And the Experian data suggests dramatically different behavior by people who own tablets and smartphones, compared to people who do not own such devices.

Also, one might argue that connected game consoles provide the same function, where it comes to watching online video on a TV, as a Chromecast, Kindle Fire TV, Roku or Apple TV box. And note the vast difference in behavior for viewers who own a game console.

Just 10 percent of adults report using a game console to watch streamed video every week. But 25 percent of console owners report they do so. The same differences can be observed for owners of smartphones and tablets.

Anomalies can sometimes signal that technological eras are about to make a transition. So watch for more signs of contradictory evidence on viewing habits as the base of users of streaming TV devices, smartphones and tablets increases.

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