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The most elusive media bundle: households

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Even in a smartphone-driven world in which content is individually personalized, media and tech companies are still trying to figure out how to win over households. 

Why it matters: People who live together share media habits, devices, connections and budgets. Creating products that satisfy an entire household's needs may prove to be more marketable and affordable than some individualized services. 

The background: In the past, consumers living under the same roof were forced to compromise on their media interests when sharing landline phones, televisions and desktop computers. While smartphones and personal devices alleviated that problem to an extent, households still share living room screens, data plans, and often passwords to streaming services like Netflix.

  • And with smartphone penetration nearing saturation in the U.S., tech companies are selling more household devices like smart TV's, smart speakers and video chat screens.

What's new: Companies have been creating new ways to target consumers who share devices and services at home.

  • Digital TV streaming has exploded as more households ditch expensive cable packages for cheaper streaming packages. But with so many options, households are getting choosier about which digital packages they want to pay for. This is why video companies like Disney and Apple are pushing for the rights of family-friendly and kids programming as a part of their streaming packages. 
  • Home assistants, smart speakers and video chat devices, like Google Home, Amazon's Echo and Facebook's new Portal screens, all aim to connect families to their favorite media, while also enabling joint calls and video chats. These devices are created to exist in common household spaces like living rooms or kitchens.

Between the lines: An all-things-connected world has also made household marketing more relevant.

  • Traditional TV networks had few options for targeting specific types of viewers, and most ads were targeted by time of day. Digital TV allows for more ways to target people within a household, like the ability to identify a user profile within a family subscription service and target ads to them specifically.
  • Facebook, Hulu and other tech companies are trying to cater to marketers around household advertising targeting, especially for marketers trying to sell more communal goods.
  • While some products (like makeup or razors) are geared toward individuals, others like vacations or groceries often require family input for decision-making. 

By the numbers: Consumers overwhelmingly watch connected-TV content on the big screen, and specifically, in the living room, per Nielsen.

  • A whopping 63% of TV-connected device usage occurs in the living room. Only 17% occurs in the secondary bedroom and 13% in the master bedroom.
  • Both Hulu and Netflix have said that roughly 70% of streaming on their platforms comes from the big screen. Hulu, which runs ads against most of its programming, has rolled out living room-focused commercial products.
  • And while roughly one quarter of U.S. adults use smart speakers, a majority of them access smart speakers through a shared home device. About 40% of all U.S. homes have a smart speaker, and of those, nearly two thirds only have one device that's shared with the entire household.

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