Over the course of the past year, the Nurun Lab developed and undertook a Design Thinking project to better understand how consumers watch TV. This question is particularly pertinent in light of the changing TV landscape, especially with the emergence of connected devices and the explosion of content across platforms. We set out to understand the impact of these changes on real people.
To build a strong understanding of the changing TV landscape, we knew we needed to get acquainted with real people, their problems, their frustrations, their workarounds, and their needs and desires in and around the world of TV. We knew that gaining this human-centred, in-depth knowledge could inspire innovative ideas and business solutions, and change how people interact with their TVs for the better.
The TV Ethnography study was designed in several phases, starting in the Lab’s anthropology research centre and moving throughout Nurun where it could have the greatest impact on our client work.
ONLINE FIELD WORK
We started off with a web-based preliminary study – called Netnography – that was meant to provide an overview of people’s frustrations, desires and excitements surrounding TV.
To get more spontaneous reactions from real people, we developed and fielded a proprietary Twitter-based tracking and analysis tool. The result was a very visual and meaningful way of collecting data, which allowed us to generate hypotheses about TV viewing that we could explore further with the subsequent ethnography.
Based on the Netnography findings, and as a way of beginning to work with the insights generated in the study, we began building a minimum viable prototype that we believed would address the needs and wants of TV viewers. The prototype was also meant to push our initial understanding of the role that multiscreen interactions played in the TV landscape and to determine what we needed to research next.
Our experience demonstrated the need for a prototype that would re-inject seamlessness into the multiscreen TV viewing experience. Our idea was to use a tablet as both a second screen and as a super remote control that could gather video content across platforms. Our prototype was also equipped to learn and adapt to each user’s TV viewing habits.
REAL-LIFE FIELD WORK
Once our initial prototype was completed and we had identified further areas to research, we decided to launch a deep, field-based ethnographic study on TV viewing rituals.
To launch the study, the Lab selected participants to self-document their TV viewing behaviours. This self-documentation was a way to collect preliminary data while providing the informants with insights into their TV consumption patterns. This would then be further explored through in-depth ethnographic interviews.
Based on the material we collected from the self-documentation, as well as a series of in-depth ethnographic interviews with each informant, we created a series of portraits of our television viewers.
Analyzing these portraits within a multidisciplinary team – an anthropologist, a strategic planner, IT developers and a designer – we were able to generate insights from the data we had captured about our informants’ TV viewing behaviours, routines and rituals, individually as well as collectively.
When we brought our ethnographic findings together, it was clear that traditional benchmarks for measuring television audiences and viewing habits had lost their ability to define current TV consumption patterns. From the multiplication of content viewing devices to the rise of new consumption behaviours (such as replay, on-demand, streaming or even illegal downloading), we were able to see just how much the television consumption landscape has changed. Moreover, while broadcast figures from Nielsen, the leader in media consumption monitoring, show a drop in the size of TV audiences, our findings demonstrate that people are watching just as much television than ever before, just in a different – and more individualistic – way. TV viewing now involves the encounter of particular content, on a specific device, in a certain social context.
At the same time, even though the ability to watch any content on any screen has freed users from the tyranny of a TV schedule, people still crave the social dimension of watching, and talking about watching, TV.
Social media has become a great tool to fill the void left by the atomization of TV consumption. Tools such as Twitter or GetGlue can connect people, spark conversations and foster a feeling of community amongst all of the show’s viewers.
For the future, we believe that stakeholders (producers, channels, manufacturers and cable companies) should think of the TV viewing experience as a “responsive ecosystem,” in which each device plays a different role depending on the other devices available at the moment of use. Any screen can be the first, second or even the third screen, and designers must be ready for this.
SPREADING THE LAB’S WORK WITHIN NURUN
As knowledge of the Lab’s exploratory work spread, we chose to share our findings with a few of our clients in the telecommunications industry. We recognized the impact our findings could have, from helping our clients face new competitors who have bypassed traditional business models to enabling them to create differentiated value propositions that are attractive to new viewers as well as old ones who are trying to “cut the cord.”
Videotron, one of the leading cable providers in Québec, has spread its entertainment offering to every screen in order to cater to the varying viewing habits of its customers. Nurun used the results of the ethnographic study and the foundation of the initial prototype to support the development of a seamless viewing experience between the company’s website (illico.tv) and tablet applications (iPad and Android). The app, which was developed by Nurun, offers Videotron’s customers a unique assortment of films and TV shows on all of their various screens, while increasing the opportunities for devices to communicate with each other. In the first month of its release, the illico.tv iPad app was downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Based on the Lab’s research, several other digital services and products are also being worked on at Nurun. They will be released in the next few months to help create an adapted offer and help build tomorrow’s TV landscape.