Hype vs. Fact

There’s a lot of discussion about Canadians’ ongoing love affair with video. And it’s no surprise. We love it, we love all the devices we view it on and we seem to have an unlimited appetite for content. We want it all the time, anywhere, anyhow.

But when it comes to measuring all this behaviour we have to remind ourselves that our job is to decode hype and separate fact from myth.

A recent study from Google reported that 16% of Canadian homes have “cut the cable”. First, let’s bring some context to this claim. There is a wealth of data that confirms that homes headed by younger Canadians are more likely to eschew a TV subscription service in favour of viewing video online. These cord cutters (if they even had the cord to cut in the first place), will certainly be found in greater numbers among younger Canadians.

While this trend may grow, it seems that unlikely to be a very widespread phenomenon in our immediate future. The fact is that only 7% of Canadian households currently do not subscribe to TV services.

As you can see from the Media Stats Connected TV in Canada Chart above, TV subscriptions in Canada continue to rise annually. According to Media Stats, who reports actual Subscribers from each BDU, there were about 11.8M TV homes in Canada in 2012. We can see clearly from the Media Stats data that the way Canadians get TV into their homes has changed. We now subscribe to TV services from a variety of operators.

Media Stats does not currently measure penetration of services such as Apple TV and video consumption from gaming devices. We don’t have standard measurement for those services yet and penetration is hard to gauge. We know alternate ways to access Video content are gaining traction but the hard facts on those numbers remain, for the time being, elusive.

BBM Canada also measures the number of homes with different reception types. Their latest figures report about 79% of homes with a digital reception, be it cable or satellite. You can see in Chart Two (below) that the number of homes receiving their TV signals “Off-Air” has declined over time; in fact, in 2008, 10% of homes were classified to be without subscription to a TV service; today it is only 7%.

In the meantime, the facts also confirm that the vast majority of homes (93%), still subscribe to TV services and receive commercial linear TV. Each home may customize what they consume and how they receive signals including online video platforms. The multiple delivery TV platforms available to Canadians are a double –edged sword. While they provide Canadians with abundant choice on the one hand, they make it more complex for our industry to measure and determine viewing behaviour.

As an industry we should continue to push for ways to standardize measurement across all platforms, to get a better sense of the facts. Today, our industry requires a different measurement system to better understand consumer’s behavior across media and platforms rather than multiple measurement companies focusing on one single platform. This work is ongoing and won’t be resolved in the near future In the meantime, we should rely on the industry source for each platform; BBM Canada for TV & Radio measurement, comScore for online measurement, PMB & NADbank for magazine and newspaper measurement and COMB to understand Out of Home trends.

As a statesman once said “Facts can be very stubborn things.”

When new data sources release information, we should assess their results through the prism of what we know: facts from accepted industry standard sources. We never want to dismiss new trends; we just have to be diligent in examining them within the correct context: just the facts.