This spring, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) released TV RE[DEFINED], a project that explores how people are watching television in this transforming viewing environment. This study sheds light on how global viewers discover and consume content, illustrating how content creators and TV providers can redefine their relationship with viewers in the new TV landscape. The full summary is available on our blog.

In this post, we’re going to dive more deeply into how viewers discover new content. While they have redefined their engagement with content radically, the routes they take to find new content are largely unchanged.

We should not underestimate the continued importance of traditional TV, as well as the power of those water cooler conversations!

Before committing to watching new content, global viewers ages 12 to 34 engage in a 3-step process:

1. Initial awareness (or how they first come across a show). Viewers’ initial discovery process hasn’t changed much:

  • At 29%, the most common way viewers find new programs is by channel-surfing or otherwise coming across them on TV.
  • Word-of-mouth remains important, with 20% learning about new content through conversations with people they know. In-person conversations are even more influential than communications on social media.
  • TV promos inform 16% of viewers of new shows. Channel-surfing, word-of-mouth, and promos are by far the most common means of initial discovery.
  • One notable rarity here is online services like Netflix, which account for less than 1% of initial discovery.

2. Reinforce interest in the show by seeking out information. This is where the internet plays a role in the discovery process, with 47% of viewers looking up new shows online. These online sources work best when they provide depth of information to potential audiences (channel websites are just as important as Google searches). Hearing about shows from other people is also influential, with 24% of viewers reinforcing interest through word-of-mouth.

3. Use the same tools they used to find the show to “seal the deal” to watch the show. In order to finally commit to watch a show, viewers generally return to their initial methods of discovery: channel-surfing (37%), word-of-mouth (32%), and TV promos (27%).

For kids 6 to 12, playground conversations rule when it comes to discovering new shows. Word-of-mouth dominates among kids. It’s where they first get information about a show (51%) and what ultimately gets them to tune in (59%). And who better than friends to keep kids up to date with programs (either new, or new to them) that they might enjoy?

In summary, linear TV remains a key source for discovering new shows and continues to serve as a first point of entry for new TV content. No online service currently fulfills viewers’ needs in this area as well as linear TV.

How TV providers, advertisers, and content creators can redefine their relationship with viewers:

  • TV Providers: Embrace your current role and innovate around discovery. Continue to make discovery fun and easy for viewers … before someone else figures it out! (And could someone please do something to improve the EPG or “Electronic Program Guide” experience?)
  • Advertisers: Leverage discovery by being part of content promo units and trailers that travel beyond the realm of linear TV.
  • Content Creators: Never underestimate the power of passive discovery and personal conversations (whether at the water cooler or on the playground).