A social interface
for online TV.

A thesis process.

Primary research and statistics

I have conducted a series of interviews and a comprehensive survey in order to find out more about people’s TV watching habits. While conducting the interviews, I tried to keep the conversations as open as possible, letting people talk about their own experiences regarding television. These experiences seem to vary substantially from one person to the next. I tried to find the common denominators and see what joint pain points my interviewees were experiencing. It was also important for me to understand what were the enjoyable moments of watching television and how they have changed with the emergence of new technology.
After a few interviews I decided to compose a survey that would allow me to check my assumptions on a larger scale. Some questions about TV watching experience could only be answered in person, and so I continued talking to subjects, while trying to get simpler statistics by help of the survey.
I managed to get 50+ responses to my survey. The responders consisted mainly of peers of mine from Parsons and from my undergraduate studies fellows, friends back in Israel. This did not give me a very varied account in terms of age and socio-economic status, but did manage to test my theories as they relate to the educated 20-35 year old crowd who accounted for 98% of the survey responders and most of my interview subjects.

Online TV vs. broadcast TV
One assumption I had and was happy to have validated was that my responders mainly used online resources in order to watch television. 65% of the responders stated that online TV is their main source of TV content. 29% stated that they watch both broadcast cable TV and online TV. Only 6% chose broadcast television as their only source of TV content.
The terms Online TV and Broadcast TV proved confusing to the subjects of my interviews. To me this was another assertion of the situation that this domain has yet to find its new place in our day to day lives.

The tech
80% of the responders stated that they used their computer in order to watch TV contents. 80% stream from official resources, while 60% stated they used unofficial ones.
37 out of 50 survey takers used Netflix - by far the most popular. This conclusion is supported by Nielsen’s study from September 2013, indicating that 38% of Americans use Netflix.
Another interesting fact that emerged in my survey and actually has been a widespread phenomenon is the joint use of Netflix accounts. While 37 responders indicated that they used Netflix, only 18 noted they were paying for it. Netflix currently has 30 million subscribers, which do not account for 38% of the population of the US (313 million). From this I would assume that many users are actually sharing accounts with friends and family. This has been made possible by Netflix’s sensibility to not limit the number of users and points of access per account.

The busy viewer
One topic that emerged both out of the interviews and the survey responses is the television’s role in our lives. Because most of the interviews' and survey's subjects were either working or studying, it seemed that there was never enough time in their lives for “doing nothing”. It seems that watching TV was considered a waste of time and thus consumed in a few cases only. One very common case is watching TV while eating: out of all the responders, only two stated that they did not watch TV when eating alone at home. 31% went as far as declaring that they could not eat alone without watching TV, while the rest were split between “Most times” and “Sometimes”. Among the interviewees, all stated that they used to eat in front of some form of TV content.
Clearly, among the busy viewers television was considered a waste of time, a desired activity which had to be deliberately limited. Many survey responders stated that they will only watch TV while doing something else, to “not feel like I’m wasting time”. This includes eating, doing chores around the house, working or right before falling asleep.

An interesting pattern that kept repeating was the “weekend binge”. About 80% of the busy individuals mentioned previously, binge watch on the weekends. According to the survey this was considered some form of an award for a full week of hard work, an opportunity to unwind. This was affirmed by the interviewers. In fact, after going through the survey responses and interview notes, I came to the assumption that there were a few types of watching manners:
• The “hurried watching” while taking a short break, usually for eating.
• The weekend reward of “binging” for a job well done.
The in betweens: the “movie night” and the “catching up” on favorite shows. These last two are less specific and can come into play at anytime during the week.

Stuff you should check out!

On August 2013, Kevin Spacey gave the The James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. It was mind blowing.
Above is the short version (5 min) and here is the full transcript on the International Business Times and the full lecture here (46 min).

Outside The Box
Netflix and the future of television.
An article by Ken Auletta in the February 3rd issue of The New Yorker. Going over all the recent changes to the television world in a fascinating, well written piece.

Back to top ^

© All rights reserved, Or Leviteh 2014.