Interactive TV drawing ho-hum response

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Not interested.
That is the surprisingly ho-hum reaction of more than seven out of 10 respondents in an unpublished study of interactive television obtained by Electronic Media.
The study, from Westfield, N.J.-based Statistical Research Inc., a provider of audience-measurement data to networks and agencies, provides a snapshot of the road advertisers, programmers, marketers and others heavily invested in the new digital technologies have yet to travel to convince a skeptical public.
SRI polled a small but statistically significant sample of 201 households previously interviewed for its Home Technology Monitor ownership study in spring 2001. Of those 201 homes, 142 had a television equipped with one or more ITV features. For the study’s purposes, ITV was defined simply as “two-way communication between viewers and their television service … intermediated by a set-top box.”
That 72 percent of the people surveyed by SRI answered “not interested” when asked about interacting with TV programs is perhaps this study’s most surprising finding, said its author, David Tice, director of client services, SRI.
What makes that result even more significant is that it is essentially the same for both those homes that had no ITV whatsoever (71 percent “not interested”) and those that had been exposed to ITV and had it currently available (73 percent “not interested”), Mr. Tice said.
ITV’s providers “really need to educate the public” on its benefits, Mr. Tice said. And the study’s results do provide guideposts for what the public perceives those benefits to be. For example, 69 percent of the respondents were “interested” in being able to click on a TV advertisement and have a coupon delivered to them, either by mail or by e-mail. Of those interested respondents, 25 percent were “very interested” and 44 percent were “somewhat interested.” Clearly, that represents a large and attractive pool of potential customers for ITV advertisers.
Of currently available ITV services, the interactive programming guide is the one respondents found most useful. In an ITV universe with hundreds of channels, the IPG offers control and choice, Mr. Tice said.
Ninety-five of the study’s homes had an IPG, and large majorities in those homes use it regularly. More than nine out of 10 respondents in those 95 homes say they use the IPG a couple of times each week (92 percent) and more than eight out of 10 use it every day (81 percent). Seven in 10 of the IPG respondents use it both for deciding what to view at the moment and for deciding what to view at a future time.
In more than half of the IPG homes, channel surfing is down; in more than four-fifths of the IPG homes, consulting newspaper TV listings is down, according to the study.
One other significant finding about the IPG is that fears it would become a “gatekeeper” to programmers have not materialized. In fact, 95 percent of the IPG homes in the study reported the IPG screen does not come on when they first turn on their television sets.
Use of e-mail ITV features was almost nonexistent among study respondents. Just 11 of the 201 homes reported having e-mail or Internet capability available through their television sets, only five of those homes have ever availed themselves of it, and three of those five reported that their use of the e-mail/Internet feature was declining.
Of near-future ITV services, video-on-demand and an IPG with point-click-record capability were the ones the most respondents found of “major” interest, again because of the promise of convenience, control and choice, Mr. Tice said. Of course, both video-on-demand and the point-click-record program grid are features of personal video recorders.