Dear Nielsen (and the Networks): I Was Wrong; You Weren't BSing About DVR Viewing

Categories: New TV Technology

Written By

January 4th, 2010

Yesterday I wrote a post where I reacted to an Ad Week story Ad Week article that included:

Another positive for the broadcast networks is that many advertisers are starting to believe that delayed viewing via DVRs is not as disruptive as originally thought. While media buyers won’t acknowledge that publicly, privately they say that unless an advertiser, say a retailer, needs next-day business, delayed viewing is not the ogre that it was originally thought to be.

In response to that I wrote (among other things):

Jedi Mind Trick: These DVR Viewers Skipping Your Ads Are Not The DVR Viewers You Were Looking For

The last paragraph cited above is part of the propaganda coming straight from the TV networks.  Even Nielsen is getting into the game with Nielsen Media chief Susan Whiting saying things publicly like DVRs aren’t the devil everyone thought they were, and that it turns out they are more friend than foe.

While spin from networks (and since the networks are Nielsen’s biggest customers, Nielsen) doesn’t usually bother me, the spin here is aimed at perpetuating a myth that commercials aren’t skipped during DVR playback.  Though that’s not precisely what Ad Week is saying here, unintentionally or otherwise it still perpetuates that myth.

I Was Wrong and I'm Sorry

First, the quote I attributed to Ms. Whiting was incorrect.  That quote was actually from the person interviewing her to which Ms. Whiting responded, "Yes."   Sometimes I have a difficulty seeing the forest for the trees and get so hung up on "C'mon, of course people are skipping commercials with DVRs" that I lose sight of the big picture.  Which is that DVR playback currently only accounts for 6% of the viewing and of that 6% according to the Nielsen data, 40%-45% of the commercials actually do get viewed in playback.

Nielsen Isn't Spinning The Data

Nielsen made it pretty clear to me they are not out to spin the data and that they merely want to present the facts.  The facts from Nielsen's point of view are this:

  • DVRs are in about 35% of the homes
  • DVR playback only accounts for 6% of overall TV Viewing
  • Of  that 6%,  between 55% and 60% of the commercials get skipped.

Against Worst Fears, DVR Viewing Definitely Isn't The Ogre It Was Originally Feared To Be

At least not yet.

Many people expected DVR adoption to be quicker, and the impact to be greater and so if you were expecting 85% of the people to have DVRs by now and for DVR playback to represent 50% of the viewing with 90% of the commercials skipped, 35% of the homes driving only 6%  of the viewing with only 55%-60% of the commercials being skipped really doesn't seem so bad!  It was that sentiment with which Ms. Whiting was in agreement.   And she's absolutely right.

While I'm sure that the impact is bigger than 6% for primetime, particularly when it comes to first runs of scripted shows -- and I will see if I can get some of that data --  the broader impact of DVRs across the entire TV landscape really isn't that significant yet.

Plus, according to the Nielsen data, fewer people are bypassing commercials than we thought.

 
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