Research from TiVo suggests that most people only watch, or remember watching, a relatively small number of channels or programmes a week. Six out of ten viewers find it easy to find something they want to watch on television. Yet people also report frustration in finding programmes. The problem for television and video services is how to present the impression of choice, while providing viewers with programmes they actually want to watch. So how can the viewing experience be improved?

The TiVo quarterly Video Trends Report is based on a survey of over 3,000 adults in the United States and Canada.

One of the new questions in the latest survey is how many television shows respondents watch per week. Now, this is self-reported behaviour but it is at least indicative of programmes that people actively recall viewing.

In the first quarter of 2017, just over 85% of respondents reported watching 10 or fewer shows a week, while around 65% say they watch five or fewer shows a week. That is across both pay-television and online services like Netflix or Hulu.

Number of programmes watched per week. Source: TiVo Video Trends report 2017 Q1.

There are smaller peaks at 10, 15, 20 and over 25 programmes per week, which may suggest respondents rounded to these numbers. After all, who could say, without counting, that they watched an average of 17 programmes a week?

The number of programmes that people watch is effectively restricted by available viewing time. 29% of respondents said they do not have enough time to watch all their favourite programmes. 43% said they had time each week to watch all the shows they wanted to watch, while a further 27% said they did if they recorded them so they could skip commercials.

34% of respondents say they feel overwhelmed by the number of channels available and listed in their television guide. Over 80% say they watch 10 channels or fewer.

Nearly 60% of those surveyed said they feel it is easy to find something that they want to watch on television, and that figure has risen slightly in recent quarters.

At the same time, 65% said there are sometimes or always frustrated when trying to find something to watch, a rise of over 2% in a year.

This raises an interesting question about television guides and catalogues, that typically present thousands of viewing options, yet most people only seem to care about watching fewer than 10 different shows a week, from around the same number of channels. Everyone may have their own set of favourite shows and channels, and typically they may watch the same ones from week to week.

Based on the TiVo research, 21% of respondents with a pay-television service would like their guide to be changed to a carousel format, sorted or categorized into groups or lists of programming. A further 36% would like access to such a format, while retaining access to a traditional grid guide. Yet 42% seem content with their conventional channel schedule.

Only 23% of respondents said they would like a unified guide that shows them programming that is available across their pay-television service and other services like Netflix or Hulu. However, 52% said they would be interested in cross-catalogue search, bringing back results from across multiple services.

Voice search is being introduced, with over 20% having access to this capability. Of those, half use it for up to three searches a week, with three-quarters making up to seven searches a week.

The TiVo research has consistently shown that there is frustration with the television viewing experience, but there does not appear to be an overwhelming interest in proposed solutions, which is no doubt frustrating for TiVo.

Perhaps the reason for this is that such consumer research has limited value in predicting how people will use features with which they are unfamiliar.

People may have been mildly frustrated but generally satisfied with their mobile phones until Apple showed them an alternative in the form of a phone with a screen and few buttons. Ten years later it seems as natural as anything.

As informitv has demonstrated in a proof of concept user interface, there may be better ways to present programmes than a conventional grid guide or library catalogue.

We have always recognised that viewers value a combination of choice, convenience and control. The problem they have is that they often have too much choice, not enough convenience, and comparatively little control.

Most people generally know the sort of thing they want to watch. The problem is often finding it in the endless array of choices presented. The solution may lie in allowing viewers more control over their viewing options.

The TiVo quarterly Video Trends Report is available from the TiVo web site.