Can you afford not to understand changes in TV consumption?

Time Shifted Viewing

There’s no doubt television remains a powerful medium to build brand awareness quickly and effectively. In general, it’s a myth television viewing is declining. It’s the way people view TV programming that is changing. And this is something advertisers need to stay aware of.

Today, 90% of households have broadband ability with DVR or Video on Demand (VOD) for most programs. Over half use these technologies regularly. A 2015 Hub Entertainment Research study found over 60% of the TV programming Millennials watch in a week is either DVR or VOD, leaving only 39% viewed live. This time-shifted viewing and accounting for media delivery where and when an advertiser wants it are something to think about.

Let’s say you’re planning a weekend sale. You don’t want to cannibalize your weekday sales ahead of time, so you load up on your television buy to air Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Because of recorded viewing, as much as half of your promised audience won’t see your spot until after your sale is over.

Reporting standards have not caught up to this phenomenon. Many of the major networks argue for a “Live plus 3,” and others are steadfast in a “Live plus 7,” rating for their shows. This is done to maximize the total rating for the show given so much time-shifted viewing. But, this is the program’s audience, not the audience consuming your commercial. Currently, almost 60% of DVR viewers skip the commercials and 40% of VOD viewers wish they could.

Nielsen has been working to try to correct this problem for several years through set-top boxes to measure full viewership including live only, live plus same day, live plus three days and live plus seven days. Currently, they’re in the top 70 TV markets with plans to roll out to additional markets in 2016. Many networks are balking at the shorter viewing periods as they say it discounts their total ratings. Of course, it’s in the network’s interest to report as many viewers as possible but is it fair to advertisers?

Another issue is set-top boxes and their inability to measure demographic segments. After discontinuing viewer-specific paper diaries as of January 2016, Nielsen is moving to a mathematical model called viewer assignment. This is an extrapolation method that models all other markets based on the demographics of the set-top box markets. It’s not exactly concrete, nor is it accredited by the Media Rating Council.

Nielsen does have new competition in the ratings game. Rentrak, owned by ComScore, has launched a service within the past year. Another competitor, from Symphony Advanced Media, pushed to market this past year as well. Both are worth inspection and are working to report not only live audience, DVR, and VOD viewing but also subscription VOD, PC, mobile and tablet viewing. Again, however, if you buy a spot television schedule, your spot likely won’t be played or viewed on other devices as these are usually separate buying systems.

So, an advertiser in 2016 is left wondering who is seeing their television commercial and importantly, when will the commercial actually be viewed?

Right now, there are several things advertisers can do to mitigate the problem until measurement issues are worked out. First, if timing of media delivery is important, give more consideration to “must see live,” programming such as sports, news, popular reality shows, or appointment TV. Second, discount ratings delivery, especially for timely media buys. There’s little value in promoting a July 4th sale on July 5th. Third, consider supplementing a television buy with channels where you can control the delivery time. Few people record radio broadcasts to listen later or read a three-day-old newspaper. Digital media can be scheduled to be viewed when you need it.

TV remains one of the best media for big reach and awareness. You just need to make sure you understand the changing television landscape, including time-shifted viewing, and ask the right questions when planning your buy.