Sprout Measures VOD Interaction

Feb 3, 2008  •  Post A Comment

PBS Kids Sprout research manager Jim Multari knew the network’s video-on-demand offering averaged 17 million views a month. He knew what content consumers ordered. He even knew when it was accessed. But he was still missing important information.
“Sprout isn’t Nielsen-rated, so we didn’t have that to rely on,” he said. “We needed to understand who these users were and how PBS Kids Sprout VOD has changed how preschool households are taking in media. We had our assumptions, but there was no secondary research that talked about preschool households and kids VOD.”
What do you do without any secondary research? “We quickly knew it was time to do our own primary research,” Mr. Multari said.
PBS Kids Sprout is the first 24-hour preschool network on TV, on-demand and online (sprout online.com) for kids 2 to 5 and their parents. The network launched first as a VOD service in April 2005, and then began a 24-hour linear channel and Web site that September. A partnership of Comcast Corp., HIT Entertainment, PBS and Sesame Workshop, PBS Kids Sprout reaches 35 million households via Comcast, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Insight, RCN, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T.
The network offers 60 hours of VOD programming each month, including 10 hours of Spanish-
language programming (“Plaza Sésamo,” “Angelina Ballerina,” “Jay Jay the Jet Plane,” “Barney & Friends,” “Bob the Builder” and “The Berenstain Bears”).
Mr. Multari reported that the network counts “a total of 350 million VOD views so far.”
Making sense of that information was the goal of a two-phase research program designed and launched by Mr. Multari and PBS Kids Sprout. The first phase was qualitative. “We recruited preschoolers and their parents to get them to sit in a traditional focus-group environment,” he said.
The groups were recruited in Baltimore, not far from PBS Kids Sprout’s Philadelphia headquarters. “We wanted a nearby area with a lot of VOD usage, and Baltimore fit the bill,” said Mr. Multari.
Twelve groups consisting of one parent and one child each were chosen. Each parent-child group, with a moderator, interacted in a room with a TV. “We tried to re-create as best we could the in-home dynamic of using VOD,” he said.
Study participants had to meet two requirements: being both a digital cable subscriber and a user of kids’ VOD. “We wanted a mix of ethnic identity and income,” he said. “We also did groups with dads. Since dads are often on the leading edge of technology adoption, we were curious as to how dad fit in.”
By observing the groups, Mr. Multari’s team hoped to answer questions about how preschoolers interact with VOD with their parents. “Not whether or not they knew how to do it—the numbers showed that they did—but what was the interaction with the child with regard to the logistics of selecting the content, and what happens when the content is on,” he said. “Do parents sit and watch a whole episode with a child? Or does it help occupy the child as the parent comes and goes? We had a lot of probes on what VOD does for you as a parent—the functional benefits as well as the higher, emotional touchy-feely things about being able to give your child what they want when they want it.”
Once the first phase of research was done, Mr. Multari moved on to the larger quantitative phase. But he emphasized that what was gained from the first phase was multifaceted.
“We were simulating the experience and it was new technology,” he said. “Just being able to watch how kids and parents interact provided a ton of learning—and was interesting for our programming team—about how kids ask for it and how parents provide it, as well as the hierarchy of needs that parents think about when selecting VOD content. So we learned a tremendous amount of information.”
For the second phase, working with research partner Harris Interactive, the information gained in the qualitative research was put into a questionnaire and administered through the Web to 750 preschool households.
“It was a pretty large undertaking,” said Mr. Multari. “The questionnaire took about 20 minutes to fill out, and it took 10 days to collect all the data.” He wanted a representative sample by MSO, and since they knew the majority of their audience accesses VOD via Comcast, they made sure to recruit a sub-sample of other MSOs.
The study resulted in three major “take-aways,” Mr. Multari said. “We realized for the first time that VOD is clearly being adopted by preschool households. But the linear network is still the primary destination. We didn’t hear too many families say they went straight to on-demand,” he said.
The research also revealed that the typical Sprout household is a more “active” media consumer; parents are 10% more likely to sit and watch TV with their preschoolers and 25% more likely to have selected a kids’ VOD program in the past six months. Last, nearly half of the Sprout viewers said they watch TV and VOD with their children daily.
“A Sprout household is more involved with kids’ media consumption,” said Mr. Multari. “So ad sales can have parent-targeted advertising. The study started small, but it evolved into something of benefit to the whole network.”


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