According to NBC, the era of the DVR is dead, streaming is the future and perhaps most interesting, the introduction of smart TVs paired with consoles will forever change the way audiences consume television content.
Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBC, shared some new figures during a panel at the Television Critics Association conference on Tuesday about how audiences are watching television in 2016. While some of the numbers seemed pretty obvious — streaming is on the rise, for example — one of the most important trends Wurtzel and his team have noticed is how disruptive smart TVs entering the mainstream will be for all types of television.
"For the first time in years, all of the technology platforms are mainstream, and much of that has to do with smart enabled TVs," Wurtzel said. "Paired with consoles and smartphones, it's no longer just the 18-34 group that's going digital first."
For anyone looking into purchasing a new TV right now, it's nearly impossible to find one that's not smart enabled, Wurtzel said. Paired with consoles, having access to streaming services like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix or other digital marketplaces has never been easier. As a result, more than 80 percent of people that NBC surveyed said their viewing habits had changed in the past year, using a combination of consoles, smart TV apps, tablets and smartphones to watch their favorite shows.
"The era of DVR is coming to an end"
To accommodate the changes in their viewers' habits, NBC has started to look into ways to give audiences the kind of experience they're searching out. While the network hasn't counted out a stand-alone streaming service, there are also no current plans to invest in one. Instead, NBC wants to focus on making earlier, archived seasons of shows available to fans through smart TVs and consoles.
"Delayed viewing is the new normal," Wurtzel said. "People are watching shows later while they're on the air and coming to new shows far after they've ended."
Wurtzel added that according to their survey, 54 percent of audiences won't watch a new show if they don't have access to earlier seasons. On top of that, 80 percent of audiences are looking to streaming services like Netflix because of its easily accessible catalogue of shows to catch up. One of the most staggering statistics released earlier this year is that Friends remained one of the most streamed shows on Netflix even now.
Because people aren't watching shows live — with numerous people reporting that even if they're watching television while the show is airing live, they would wait a couple of days before sitting with it — Wurtzel said they've started to pour more into research on how people are watching television. For the most part, Wurtzel and his team realized that the shelf life of a show is no longer a week. Instead, a show could be on the air for years before finding its footing and securing a fan base — something the network learned through series like Community and Parks and Recreation.
"We used to judge a show based on their weeklong ratings because DVR was the thing," Wurtzel said. "But the era of DVR is coming to an end. We have to accept that."
Wurtzel didn't add if that meant NBC was going to change how they approached ratings, and in turn, the criteria for whether shows are renewed or canceled, but he did acknowledge things needed to change. At the rapid pace technology is infiltrating entertainment and the industry, they need to figure out how to adapt.
"Internet connected devices, smart TVs, jumped from 15 percent to 29 percent within one year," Wurtzel said, specifying that it was people within the 18-34 age bracket investing in new television sets for the most part. "By this time next year, that number will be closer to 50 percent. That means that 50 percent of people will have an unlimited amount of content at their disposal."