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Survey: Premium content still trumps free

Wed, 11/17/2010 - 7:30am
Brian Santo

Consumers prefer pay-TV content over free-to-air services, even in markets where free programming is more readily available, according to global research from Motorola Mobility. For all that, consumers insist they want access to free over-the-top content.

Meanwhile, SNL Kagan concludes the loss in total U.S. multichannel subscribers must be due at least in part to some consumers switching exclusively to over-the-top video, while a third study quantifies how very many people are watching video on some device other than a traditional TV.

Free-to-air services are available to 67 percent of global viewers, compared with 57 percent for paid-for services, but most consumers preferred TV services that are subscription only, according to Motorola Mobility's "Global 2010 Media Engagement Barometer."

The implication is that premium programming deserves the description – people are willing to pay a premium for it.

Just over two-thirds of the sample said it was either quite or very important to be able to access free content on devices other than the main television set in the home. Meanwhile, only 39 percent responded that subscription content was quite or very important.

Motorola concluded that that suggests the majority of paid-for content is consumed on one device (the TV) and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

A quarter of respondents said it is important to be able to access free content when out and about; this is even truer in China, where 49 percent of respondents said this sort of access is very important.

"The findings suggest that the huge increase in the availability of video content is leading to viewers tiering their viewing habits in terms of preference, notionally based around payment," said Bill Ogle, chief marketing officer at Motorola Mobility. "Yes, they're watching content on laptops and other devices, but they are still staying loyal to the television set. This is a powerful message for the service providers. Stickiness does exist, providing all parts of the offering are attractive to subscribers."

Motorola's survey also shows that people are integrating social media into their viewing experiences. Forty-two percent of viewers globally have had an e-mail conversation, engaged in an instant message chat or used a social network to discuss a program or video while they were watching it.

Of this group, 22 percent said that social media multi-tasking is a regular part of their viewing experience, and 61 percent would be prepared to pay more for a service that offered these capabilities.

"The research clearly shows a changing television landscape, one where subscription services are becoming mainstream, augmented by social activities revolving around Internet chat and networking channels," said Ogle. "As we advance further into the Internet Era of TV, the ability for service providers to differentiate their offers will become even more crucial as consumers look for extra value from their subscriptions. The good news is that, based on these findings, consumers are willing to pay for the services providing the value."

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