Canadians' appetite for binge TV viewing a 'transformational' trend: Rogers

TORONTO – Canadians’ growing appetite for binging on episodes of their favourite TV shows represents a “transformational” trend that’s shaking up the industry, says Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), which released the results of an online poll suggesting that 81 per cent of respondents watched three or more episodes of a series during a viewing marathon in the past year.

In the poll of 1,275 Canadians conducted by Head Research, viewers were asked how many episodes of a show they went through consecutively during a binge-watching session on a weeknight or on a weekend.

The average during the week was four straight episodes and it was 4.6 on weekends.

The figures weren’t surprising to David Purdy, Rogers’ senior vice-president of content, who said binge viewing is a major trend the company is paying close attention to.

“We’re kind of in the beginning of what we think is a major transformational stage in the TV world, so we have a ton of questions and we’re doing a lot of research these days,” said Purdy, noting that young people in particular have been identified as big fans of marathon viewing.

When asked how many episodes of a show they watched consecutively during a viewing binge, the respondents who were 34 and younger averaged 5.4 episodes on a weeknight and 6.6 episodes on a weekend. Among those 55 and older, the averages were 3.2 on a weeknight and 3.3 episodes on a weekend.

“A lot of it is based on life stage, so if you’re younger and more tech savvy you’re more likely to have adopted marathon viewing or binge viewing than if you’re an older demographic,” said Purdy.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that 15- to 25-year-olds want to consume content differently than their parents did and so this has been a real focus for us.”

Purdy said the company is looking to address the trend by rolling out a Netflix-type on-demand service that would be sold as an add-on to a monthly subscription, similar to services in the U.S. such as Redbox Instant and Streampix. It could potentially be made available to non-Rogers customers as well.

The growing availability of online video content has contributed to the so-called “cord cutter” trend, referring to consumers who have cancelled their cable TV subscriptions because they find enough content to watch via the Internet or free over-the-air signals.

Then there are “cord nevers,” referring to young consumers who have never paid for a TV plan and perhaps never will. Purdy said the cord-never trend is growing and is a legitimate threat.

“I definitely believe that if we don’t evolve our products and services — the way we have been and are planning to continue to do so — that ‘cord nevers’ are a very real risk. There’s 12.7 per cent of Canadians that don’t subscribe to a pay service today and not quite half of that comes from people who have never subscribed to pay television,” he said.

Purdy points out that the numbers are growing. He said it’s definitely cause for reflection and cause for companies like Rogers to continue to innovate.

“If we don’t do that, there’s definitely a risk that people may not subscribe to traditional cable, satellite or IPTV (service).”

The online poll was conducted between April 3 and 8. The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.