Due to recent dramatic headlines, a number of our clients are asking with concern – “Are we no longer watching TV?” At M&K, we know the true viewing story – yes, we still enjoy watching TV, although our viewing habits are shifting somewhat.

The Headlines:

“Fewer people than ever are watching TV” (Time, Dec’14)

“U.S. TV viewing down sharply in past year” (Marketing, Dec’14)

“1 in 10 Canadians no longer watch TV, just web video” (HuffPost, Feb’15)

Hmmm… We place millions of dollars on behalf of our clients in TV, and have a number of case studies from some very successful campaigns. So, what’s really going on?

The Facts:

We looked at TV viewing over the past decade and according to Numeris, A18-54 watch a steady 25.0 to 25.7 hours per week. Average weekly reach remains strong at 98.2% for A18+.

A recent Ipsos Reid study reports that A18+ spend an average 3 ½ hours per day watching commercial television; 8 out of 10 Canadian adults watched yesterday; and 90% of time spent watching is live television.

And all the alarming headlines?

To be fair, it’s the Boomers who watch the most TV, approximately 39 hours per week. They are followed by Gen X at 26 hours and the Millennials at 20 hours per week. We now own more devices than ever before, 60% of us own a smartphone and +30% own a tablet, allowing for other viewing opportunities. But we tend to use the devices collectively, multitasking as we watch the big screen.

More and more of us have PVR’s (56%), but only 13% of viewing is through playback. The majority of our TV viewing is consumed live.

Netflix is gaining in popularity as more than 25% of Canadians have signed up. While the convenience of commercial free, binge watching of unique, hit shows is very appealing, Netflix Canada’s library is not nearly as robust as Netflix USA. Netflix Canada is working to increase content in Canada, but with a population that is 10% of the US, growth may be costly and limited. All indicators are that Netflix will find a way to build on the momentum of Canadian usage, but until then we’re using Netflix as an addition to our regular TV viewing, not a substitution.

Over 60% of us, primarily young adults, say that if an online provider could satisfy their broadcast TV viewing needs, they would cancel their cable subscription – ‘Cut the Cord’. This is a looming threat for broadcasters, and has led to Unbundling and Pick-and-Pay debates in front of the CRTC. However, most Canadians would rather ‘Shave the Cord’ – pairing back packages rather than eliminate cable altogether.

The shift in TV viewing is occurring, but at this point, with only 10% of viewing truly non-linear, it’s not nearly as dramatic as the headlines suggest. We enjoy watching TV as it provides the best viewing experience – watching on the best screen available in a comfortable setting provides a means of escape – necessary for our hectic lives; and is a social currency – a way to stay relevant.

At M&K, we’ll continue executing strong TV buys for our clients, as we know that Canadians still enjoy watching a lot of TV. And as we all keep watching, we too will keep watching…pun intended!

Julie King