In many marketing circles, TV gets the short end of the stick, especially when you are talking about young people, but we believe TV, and more specifically, TV content will be the thing this year. Like always, we have an ample amount of recent data to back up our beliefs.
First, let’s start off with the hardware devices. At last check, slightly more than 45% of all college students own a flat panel HDTV. The viewing experience via a flat panel HDTV is second to none for students, let alone everyone else. In fact, we would challenge any of you to find a college guy that doesn’t like watching his favorite NFL team in HD on a 50 inch screen. The reality is simple: over the past few years, the cost of a large flat panel HDTV has come down dramatically, so much so that many students have been able to foot the bill themselves instead of having to turn to Mom and Dad, which is always a plus. What’s more, if we’re talking devices, we must highlight the rapidly growing interest among students for connected and smart-TV devices. Purchase interest for Internet-ready TVs tripled in 2011. The last part of the device story centers on the set-top boxes like those made by Roku and Apple. Ownership of alternative set-top boxes is still relatively small (less than 5%), but again, purchase interest over the coming year is near 20%, which is a pretty robust percentage for any device within the consumer electronics category. At the end of the day, the picture is pretty bright on the hardware side of all things TV-related.
Now, let’s shift to the content side of the equation. Thank goodness for all those alternative viewing sources, because never before has there been so much to consume that’s deemed appealing by the college audience. It used to be just a handful of individual TV shows that would repeatedly show up as the favorite’s season after season. We now live in a much different time. Between broadcast, cable and premium cable, there are several “genre pockets” that are resonating big time with the audience. Who would have thought a few years back that History Channel would house two of the top 15 TV shows among college males in “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers.” Better yet, none of us would have thought a couple of years ago that cable net AMC would be among the top seven cable networks, but it is, thanks to breakout collegiate cult favorites led by “The Walking Dead,” “Hell on Wheels” and “Breaking Bad.” Let’s face it, TV content has dramatically improved over the past few years and the audience by and large, is embracing it to the max.
And lastly, since we can’t get through any piece without mentioning social media at least once, let’s touch on the social component of TV viewing. Time and again, we’ve confirmed our belief that social media is a viable complement and fan supplement to the overall viewing experience. If Nielsen had a box in every campus dorm room or off-campus apartment, the marketing community would see that this translates into higher ratings for individual shows. Students who interact with an individual show via social media are by no coincidence among the most loyal and vocal fans—these are your unpaid content evangelists, so why wouldn’t you want to cuddle up with them?
Still think TV will be passé this year? Let us not forget that 2012 is an Olympics year and our past research illustrated the Summer Olympic Games are about 35% more popular than the Winter Olympic Games. This year’s Summer Olympics will be quite a strong lead in for the start of the college and NFL football seasons. In between all of this, attention will turn to Apple to see what’s up their sleeve in the interactive TV space. Speculation has been intense since the release of the Steve Jobs biography last fall. For the iPhone, iPod, iPad-device loving college crowd, we have to pay close attention for any significant product release from the world’s most valuable consumer company.