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A Wurl of Data: Let Us Introduce Ourselves

Welcome to A Wurl of Data! In this recurring blog series, Wurl’s Data Science team will deep dive into the data we have acquired and use it to derive insights into what’s happening in the world of linear television.

TV has had a regular presence in our lives for almost a century, and for being referred to as an “old technology,” it’s undergone many transitions. When I was growing up, we needed cable TV in order to have viewing options. It was simple – you knew when your favorite shows were on and would turn on the TV at that time to watch them.

But then came video on-demand (VOD), which changed the face of TV as we knew it. Now we could watch whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. That’s great in principle, but the downside is that not all your favorite shows or movies are available on a single platform.

Over the last few years, multiple VOD platforms have come to market. Now if you want the ability to watch all your favorite programs, you need to pay a monthly fee to multiple providers. Luckily for those who choose to opt out of this option, linear TV is still widely available, and with more consumption options than ever. Now all you need to do is buy a smart TV or device, connect to the internet, and a whole lot of channels are there for your viewing for free.

Don’t believe how popular free ad-supported TV (FAST) has become? Well, the average viewing time per-viewer per-day has gone up from 1.5 hours a day at the beginning of 2021, to just over two hours at the end of May (that’s a 25% increase in just five months).

Today marks our first time sharing Wurl’s data findings with readers. Going forward, we’ll be regularly sharing our findings about how people watch TV. But for now, we’re not going to over-complicate things. So let’s backtrack and discuss just how much data we’re talking about.

How much data, and what is it telling us?

By analyzing the viewing pattern of tens of millions of viewers watching over a billion hours of FAST, we’ve found interesting distributions, both behavioral and geographical.

Looking at data from January to the end of May 2021 for some of Wurl’s most popular channels (100+ channels) and counting how many unique viewers we have, this comes out to more than 10 million viewers. And how many hours of viewing? If I had a dollar for each hour viewed (which, by the way, is not how Wurl makes money) then I would be very close to being able to buy the most expensive Mansion in the World.

What about viewing in each US state? Mississippi, Louisiana, and West Virginia are watching the most FAST on average. On the lesser side, we have Utah, California and Hawaii. But, these findings do not correlate to the amount of TV watched in each state, because this data does not account for VOD viewership.

What we can see, however, is that this behavior changes in the morning versus evening (5 am – 5 pm and vice versa). The darker the color, the more hours of viewing. For example, Alaskans seem to be early birds when it comes to watching TV, whereas Louisianans seem to be watching day and night. Do you see the Bible Belt influence in these maps?

Morning (5 am to 5 pm)

Evening (5pm to 5 am)

Let’s try to get a little deeper into why morning versus evening behavior is different. In general, people watch different things in the morning than in the evening. If we look at the ratio of morning vs. evening of total hours viewed over the last five months by genre, then we can see that, for example, news is a morning genre, while watching sports is more of an evening activity

If we look at the percentage of what people are watching in each US state by genre, we can see that we’re all watching the same amount of the same genre. We might not be as different as we think (at least when it comes to TV tastes).

Thanks for tuning into our first of many Wurl of Data blog. See you next time, and in the meantime… happy viewing!

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