The proliferation of streaming and the novelty of the subscription video on demand interface are contributing to paralysis among consumers grappling with too much choice, according to Nielsen’s latest Total Audience Report.
Among adult SVOD users, only one third of them report browsing the menu of a streaming service to find content to watch, with 21% saying they simply give up watching if they are not able to make up their minds.
In the more traditional pay-TV realm, by contrast, 58% of viewers told Nielsen they’re more likely to go back to their favorite channels if they find themselves unable to make a choice about what to watch.
“Options are great for consumers when it comes to deciding what to watch,” Nielsen SVP of audience insights Peter Katsingris wrote in the report, “but they’re also decidedly complicated for an industry that continues to fragment and search for unique ways to influence their behavior and perhaps steer eyeballs toward their network, program, service or brand.”
The report, covering the first quarter of 2019, emphasizes that overall viewing time keeps increasing. Video viewing through TV-connected devices has increased by 8 minutes daily, in large part due to the penetration of those devices and the falling away of older, less nimble setups. Also as a result of that shift, seven in 10 homes now have an SVOD service and 72% use streaming-capable TV devices.
And yet, the report asserts that customers are not in a comfortable groove when it comes to choosing what to watch. Streaming services’ emphasis on algorithms and individualized content experiences — a complete turn away from traditional audience-building methods by linear networks and pay-TV operators — is a major factor n the unrest. The report is landing at a moment when media and tech companies are spending billions to battle established leader Netflix for streaming supremacy.
“Think about the last time that you or loved ones decided to sit down and watch TV, listen to new tunes or stream a program,” Katsingris wrote. “Were you stuck in decision purgatory, endlessly checking out previews unable to make an actual choice? How long were you there? And how much do you think the paradox of choice costs programmers, content owners, brands and marketers? Surely nobody wins when potential consumers get frustrated by the amount of choice, or simply unappealing options, and ultimately decide to just go to sleep instead.”
Consumers’ total media consumption remains robust, the report found. Total intake across all forms of media was measured at 11 hours and 27 minutes per day, 21 minutes of more than in the same quarter of 2018.
In the streaming arena, having access to hundreds of shows and movies can make the decision-making process a lengthy one. The average U.S. adult takes 7.4 minutes to make a selection on a streaming service. Adults 18 to 34 take 9.4 minutes, while 35-to-54s need 8.4 minutes. Viewers 50 and older abandon discovery after about 5 minutes and just dive into something.
“Providers of content looking to influence the choices consumers make when they are deciding on content are on the clock,” Katsingris wrote. “Call it a 10-minute warning. While many consumers probably have gone down the ‘rabbit hole’ of choice, spending an inordinate amount of time trying to decide what to watch.”