Completeness: The Common Thread in 2016's On Demand Trends
Today’s TV landscape is overflowing with great programming from a diverse and growing range of networks – and viewers are consuming more than ever. For example, Xfinity On Demand saw 4 billion cross-platform hours viewed in 2016, up 19% from last year. And on average, our customers are watching about 21 hours of on demand programming on our X1 platform per month.
But with so many choices (and a limited amount of time), viewer’s had to raise their expectations to help decide what programming made their list. Arguably the biggest expectation has become completeness and that sets the tone for the top 5 TV trends of 2016 that follow below.
Stacking: It’s been four years since we started talking about stacking and 2016 represented a tipping point. Networks are leaning in. For 2016/17 TV season, broadcast networks are stacking 61% of current season scripted originals, up from 23% two years ago, and the top cable networks are at 77%, up from 53%. And they’re seeing a benefit in ratings as well – in 2016, the C3 TV ratings in the key 18-49 group on stacked series were 23% higher in Comcast homes compared to non-Comcast homes, and stacked cable series ratings were 32% higher. Quality is increasing as well – almost half of Nielsen’s top 100 shows are now stacked, up from just a handful a few years ago.
Complete Series: But current season stacking is only part of the equation. More and more, TV series are becoming like novels – and as with any book, no one wants to start in the middle. Audiences are gravitating towards series that allow you to start from the beginning and networks that are making complete series available are gaining views as a result. For example, premium networks, which offer completeness for most of their shows, saw the biggest increase in on demand hours viewed in 2016 compared to broadcast and cable networks. When we launched Xfinity On Demand, there were under a dozen complete series shows, now there are over 150 in the collection. And with the recent addition of Netflix on our X1 platform, the number of TV shows that X1 customers can watch from the very beginning continues to grow.
On Demand Storytelling: This year, we saw more content creators moving outside the confines of the traditional TV schedule. For example, 2016 saw the increased use of the limited series, which have a defined beginning-middle-end: FX series like People v OJ, American Horror Story, Fargo and upcoming Feud. We’re also seeing more networks starting to release all episodes of a series or a season at once for on demand binging. TBS led the way by releasing all episodes of Angie Tribeca and Search Party on demand at the same time as the linear premiere. Freeform followed suit with their new series Beyond, which was the #1 Series On Demand the week it released.
Not Just About Serial Dramas: Other types of programming benefit from the completeness model – notably those that lend themselves to "snack viewing." For example, in September, A&E and History added all past season episodes for many of their shows and as a result, on demand usage for both networks grew 184% and 63% respectively. In the critical category of kids programing, Disney leaned into on demand – providing all 100 Disney Channel Original Movies and several complete kids series across all of its channels – and usage on Xfinity On Demand grew 22%.
Complete Sports: We’re also seeing stats that suggest the completeness model extends beyond TV shows to sports as well. The Rio Olympics were the perfect example. In addition to airing the events from 9 NBCUniversal networks, we brought in 650 hours of on demand programming and 4,500 hours of online streaming content – all accessible on X1. As a result, ratings in X1 households were 27% higher and X1 represented about half of NBC’s online streams from connected TV devices. We think the same is possible for other sporting events and even sports leagues and teams. With many sports rights fractured across different outlets, the opportunity to assemble the "complete" season of a sports team – on any platform -- could be very valuable.