Sky’s the limit if you press the right buttons

Changing TV viewing habits, both in terms of time and devices, means advertisers need to be smarter in their planning for time-sensitive ads.

sky tv

How much does the supermarket you shop at match how you like to watch TV? More than you might think, according to research shown exclusively to Marketing Week.

If you shop at Asda, you are likely to watch programmes via a traditional PC, laptop or mobile phone, if you prefer the aisles at Waitrose, you are more likely to use a tablet computer than other shoppers and if you are a Marks & Spencer fan, the TV set is your favoured option.

The study examines the TV-watching behaviour of 7,000 UK supermarket shoppers on Kantar’s Worldpanel, specifically in terms of how their households watch content from Sky (see Methodology, below).

It shows that shoppers are watching an average of just over half an hour more Sky TV per day than they were five years ago. This figure is higher for those households that shop at Morrisons and Lidl – increasing the time spent in front of the TV by 46 minutes.

They are also ‘time shifting’ their TV viewing more, watching shows when they want to rather than at the time of broadcast, and they watch TV content on a variety of devices and platforms. Time-shifted viewing among Sky TV viewers has risen from 6 per cent in 2007 to 21 per cent in 2012.

As a result, new TV ad-buying strategies could emerge. Sky Media director of brand strategy and communication Jeremy Tester claims that the “smart money” is buying space in programmes that are less likely to be watched on catch-up for the start of an advertising campaign and then later move to time-shifted programmes.

This is because advertisers have become aware that once a viewer has seen an advert at full length, the message and branding is still recognised when it is viewed at faster speeds. Tester says: “It’s an interesting way of stretching the budget and there have been a few examples of that going on.”

Time-shifted TV viewing has increased for all supermarket shoppers but the differences lie in the types of devices they use to view content, with on-demand the most popular for all consumers.

This trend means that brands using TV to advertise special offers and promotions will need to take into consideration the increase in people watching recorded shows or on-demand services and carefully select the programmes where they place time-sensitive adverts.

“If you understand what people like to time-shift and fast-forward and what they don’t, you can be smarter about ad placement,” says Tester.

Time data frames

Although advertisers do not pay for advertising that is fast-forwarded or watched seven days after transmission, brands that want to run time-sensitive adverts will need insight to be effective.


For Unilever, maker of Surf and Marmite, the research proves that TV remains a strong route for connecting with consumers

For example, Tesco shoppers are shown to behave differently depending on whether they shop predominantly in-store or online. Those who prefer internet shopping watch half an hour less linear TV (at the time it is broadcast) per day than those who visit Tesco stores for their groceries. A quarter of what they watch is time-shifted, which is 14 per cent more than for in-store shoppers.

Online shoppers are also often the first to embrace new platforms and technology for watching content.

Simon Stanforth, group research director at Starcom MediaVest Group, which carried out the research with Sky Media, says this can help with the placement of adverts but it’s not only about being in the programmes that are viewed at the time of transmission that are effective. “If Tesco online has a promotion and it is targeting people using TV advertising, it’s about making sure it is in the programmes that are most likely to be seen live or time-shifted within the campaign period. It’s not just about being in live programmes, it’s also about programmes that are viewed soon after.”

Tesco’s online shoppers are also less likely to time-shift their viewing for live programmes. Many viewers participate in online conversations around programmes that require viewers to watch at the time of transmission in order to take part – a trend known as dual screening.

This month, Twitter released The Twitter TV Book, which breaks down the tweeting habits of TV viewers. It reveals that 60 per cent of the 10 million active Twitter users in the UK tweet while watching and 40 per cent mention what is on the television in some form.

This could lead to a trend for more people tuning into television programmes as they are transmitted. Unilever UK & Ireland senior communications and buying manager Richard Brooke claims that time-shifting might not be a major issue for brands as previously thought. Big event television, for example The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, encourages people to watch TV live so they can give an immediate response on social networks. The risk of finding out results before viewers have had a chance to watch the programme is also a disincentive to time-shift viewing.

Pause for thought

Brands will need to target the right programmes at the right time as well as think about the devices that are being used. With this in mind, Tetley has recently sponsored the pause button on Sky’s On Demand service. Amy Holdsworth, marketing director UK and Ireland at Tata Global Beverages, owner of the Tetley brand, says: “This is a relatively new phenomenon and brands are testing the water. We need to test and learn now while we can, with smaller budgets, because it is the future.”

itv dancing on ice
Programmes such as Dancing on Ice are less likely to be viewed on time shift

Holdsworth adds: “It’s also interesting with this level of information, not only from a shopper perspective but a brand perspective, to start to potentially ‘hyper-target’ the competitive brand audience with messaging.”

Stanforth agrees that although this research shows only the differences in supermarket customers, it could be used for the bread category, for example. Marketers in that category could look at where their competitors’ consumers are viewing advertising and book slots during similar or the same programmes to attract viewers to their brand instead.

People having more control over their TV viewing means that marketers will need to adapt, says Stanforth. But he believes viewing changes could be a positive thing for brands. “Whether people are time-shifting or watching on-demand services on their tablet or PC, when people have more control, their viewing tends to be more engaged.”


Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) approached Sky Media as it wanted to understand the viewing habits of the actual purchasers and how these differ by retailer. SMG also wanted to explore how behaviours for these shoppers have changed over time. It used 7,000 people on Kantar’s Worldpanel who are also part of SkyView, Sky’s panel of 30,000 Sky homes. The panel measures viewing information captured in the set-top box and reports data daily.

The people on Kantar’s Worldpanel have their purchasing records captured via hand-held barcode scanners, providing a source of viewing and purchasing data.

The Frontline

We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ‘trends’ research matches their experience on the ground

amy holdsworth

Amy Holdsworth
Marketing director UK & Ireland
Tata Global Beverages

What’s exciting for me about this research is that it offers better visibility of consumers’ viewing habits. We have known for a long time that there is a lot more multiplatform viewing and delayed viewing going on but we haven’t really known how. This is starting to provide that insight.

From Tetley’s perspective, we are an FMCG brand with 30 per cent household penetration but that’s not enough anymore. So we need to be relevant and insightful and that will now start to differ depending on what platform people are viewing your advertising on, when they are viewing it and also whether they are alone or with the rest of the family when they view it.

TV is a very expensive advertising medium and if you are not optimising it you are wasting a lot of money. The bulk of our marketing spend goes on TV and if we can be making it more efficient and effective through the likes of this data, we should be. Brands these days cannot afford the wastage.

As the results of research like this one become more insightful and you can divide down to such a granular level about your different audiences and mindsets, it becomes resource hungry. I would argue that most marketing teams in FMCG companies are not set up for that. The FMCG industry is so reliant on broadcast TV this will be a big challenge.

richard brooke

Richard Brooke
Senior communications and buying manager
Unilever UK & Ireland

The TV landscape has changed. There are more devices and so people are engaging with programmes in different ways. We need to focus on having a great product and marketing so we are able to cut through. Where relevant, we also need to be able to create additional content that consumers can engage with using second screens.

Time-shifted viewing exists but I’m not sure it is as big a problem as people make out. Big event television is encouraging people to watch TV in a ‘linear’ fashion, whether it’s Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. That event-based programming is driving people to watch more live TV. Facebook and Twitter have brought an immediacy to responses.

TV is still a strong and powerful entertainment medium and remains the conversational ‘glue’. It will remain an important part of society communication and as such an important means for advertisers to connect with consumers.

Therefore, TV will continue to be a very important part of the advertising armoury. We now have opportunities to surround the consumer with a message when they are in a mood to receive it and give them a brand experience that is complementary to our products.

jeremy tester

Jeremy Tester
Director of brand strategy and communication
Sky Media

The most stand-out piece of information in this report is that people are watching more TV. Half an hour extra per household per day in front of the TV is significant as many people, advertisers included, believe that customers are spending less time in front of their TV sets.

The extra half an hour would imply that their absorption of advertising messages would be greater. Advertisers need to be clever in the way they use the advertising opportunity or spend their money.

If you understand the way people view programmes and what they like and don’t like to time-shift, you can be smarter about where you place your advertising. If you are running promotional advertising that is only applicable for one week, you’d be wrong to put it into programmes that are being time-shifted and viewed two months later.

Lots of programming gets watched on the day it is recorded. Understanding that and making sure you are in those opportunities rather than those that might get viewed when the promotion is over, is the key to effectiveness.


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