Some reaffirmation, and a few surprises: that’s what the first set of research results revealed in The TV Membership Project, recently launched by Accelerate Local.

Research firm Magid conducted two focus groups in a select market for each of three participating local TV companies, which include FOX Television Stations, Meredith Corp. and Capitol Broadcasting Company/WRAL. Panelists were all local media consumers; some were heavy TV news consumers, others accessed a variety of local media. They were asked about a range of themes, from local media values and preferences, to key points of access for content, to notable differences between memberships and subscriptions. 

Here are some of the key focus group takeaways:

Consumers appreciate the role of local media for three core reasons.

    • Trustworthiness — local media have a vested interest in the community
    • Relevancy — local media focus on information that directly impacts consumers 
    • Connection — local media tell consumers what’s going on in their communities

Memberships are seen as more friendly than subscriptions, with more perks and benefits.  

Consumers say that when they think of memberships, they think of special privileges, inclusivity, and personalization. Subscriptions are seen as more transactional, and there is some fatigue with subscriptions. A variety of non-media memberships were cited as examples of successful programs, across retail, automotive, fitness, and more. 

Memberships and subscriptions, both media and non-media, have many core benefits, including:

    • Consistency of a fresh, high quality product or service
    • Convenience — no appointment making; often consumption takes place at the consumer’s discretion
    • Community — for example, if you belong to a gym or a club, you get to know the people that you interact with on a regular basis; this is increasingly available with digital gym/workout subscriptions, too.
    • Access/variety/combined value — for example, streaming sites give access to a range of content/products services for less money
    • Try before you buy — sample new things before you invest (e.g. Birchbox)
    • Discovery — might discover new things you weren’t searching for (a result of algorithms and recommendations, such as with Hulu, Netflix, etc. or subscription boxes)
    • Consumers are used to subscriptions and memberships (especially media) meeting them where they are. Platform mobility, intuitive search and recommendations are all important and expected. Currently, consumers feel like local media do not do that. This is where the greatest opportunity exists.

The project now moves into the quantitative research phase, involving surveying thousands of consumers across 10 U.S. markets. Focus group findings will inform the makeup of survey questions. Once surveys are completed, participating companies will then get a deep readout of consumer sentiment in their markets, and in the aggregate across all cohort markets, helping them shape their respective membership pilot programs for 2020.

We’ll share more of our findings from the surveys in the first quarter of 2020. Stay tuned.