New technologies are influencing the viewing habits of Canadian consumers with regard to audiovisual content and at the same time enhancing the availability of such content. A study, How Canadians Select Audiovisual Content  (PDF), was commissioned by Telefilm Canada , the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles  (SODEC) and the Canada Media Fund  (CMF). Based on results of focus groups convened across the country, indicates, notably, that Canadians are now increasingly choosing to watch TV series instead of feature films and confirms that most film-viewing is done through television. The study found, moreover, that consumers are increasingly seeking on-demand access to audiovisual products across a wide variety of platforms.
The study aimed to provide a better understanding, from a qualitative perspective, of consumers’ new expectations, of how they make their viewing decisions, of the sources they consult when making these decisions, of the impact of digital platforms on their decisions and of their perceptions of the industry. Montreal marketing research firm Ad hoc recherche  organized eight focus group sessions—in Sherbrooke, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver—involving some 60 participants aged between 25 and 59. The participants were categorized as Connected/Superviewers and Active At Home consumers for purposes of the study. These market segments are as were identified in a previous study  (PDF) that Telefilm commissioned in concert with HEC Montréal and Ad hoc recherche). Given the qualitative nature of the study, no statistical findings can be extrapolated; however, given that participants expressed similar opinions on several different topics, the study makes it possible to identify a number of significant trends.
The complete study is available here .
“As I recently stated during my appearance at the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians , I believe that innovation with regard to accessibility and consumer engagement is essential if we want Canadian content to really resonate with audiences,” said Carolle Brabant, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada. “Every time content is shown on the big screen, broadcast on television or made available on digital platforms, we have incredible opportunities to promote Canadian talent, not only to Canadians, but to the world.”
Added Monique Simard, President and CEO of SODEC: “We’re seeing that the multi-screen phenomenon is very positive, because it means that a wider variety of audiences have access to cultural products and these products are more accessible.”
Valerie Creighton, President and CEO of the CMF, continued: “The technology choices available to consumers today transform their entertainment consumption to a personalized, portable, shareable, on-demand experience, and this new report provides solid evidence that Canadians want access to content at any time, from anywhere, on their platform of choice.”
Highlights of the study
- On-demand access now seems to be the standard and video content is more accessible than ever before. While the TV screen is still the main screen, there has been a shift to ad-free viewing on-demand, according to study participants, driven, among other things, by PVRs (personal video recorders), streaming, free downloading and video on demand (VOD). The subscription viewing model seems to be the favoured approach by far, as opposed to the one-at-a-time or ad-supported model.
- The distinction between the worlds of film and TV series seems to be increasingly blurred, to the benefit of series viewing. Indeed, consumers appear to be shifting some of their movie-viewing time to TV shows. Abundant in number, of high quality, TV series keep viewers “hooked” over extended periods of time, are available on-demand on several platforms and can be consumed through binge viewing—a now widespread practice.
- We already know that most movies are watched at home; however, the choice of film seems to be determined by a consumer’s mood, which can change from day to day. Movie-going, by contrast, a more expensive undertaking often reserved for major productions, is considered a social event, with participants often knowing in advance which movie they want to see in a theatre.
- While consumers appear to obtain information about movies mainly by watching trailers, word-of-mouth, including social media, seems to be the main way they learn about TV series. For a movie to be chosen by consumers, it must generate buzz everywhere, ideally on all platforms.
- Not surprisingly, the Quebec industry seems to fare well, owing to its distinct star system as well as the pride and sense of belonging it elicits. Focus group discussions confirmed that Quebec films captivate viewers with their humour, local aspect and close proximity to their audience’s reality.
- The English-language industry seems to be poorly known and subject to certain negative perceptions. However, several participants mentioned that their perception of the industry generally improved when they were provided with specific examples of Canadian films, which shows just how important promotion is.
- Participants deemed that the development of Canada’s industry is desirable, since everyone is looking for good content; that content, however, will be judged in the same way as the best of the existing offer is judged.