Monday, November 9, 2009

Breaking News: People are lazy when they watch TV

When it was first introduced, advertisers and TV executives thought the DVR was going to be their downfall. They thought audiences would jet past their expensive ads and ultimately kill television.

But it didn’t happen.

Via the NY Times:

Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year.

Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?

The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.

“It’s still a passive activity,” he said.

Two years ago, Nielsen introduced “commercial-plus-three,” to replace the then-standard program rating system. This measured how many ads were watched either live or in playback within three days of its initial airing. And what they’re finding is that with the widespread use of DVR, more people are watching ads than ever before. 

Ten percent more, in fact. 

New York Times writer Bill Carter explained it in an interview on NPR’s “On the Media:”

In the old days of television, when there was no recording at all, if you had a favorite show and it was on 9 o'clock on Thursday night, and then another network said, I'm going to move my best show there, well, you had to make a choice then. Now you don't have to make a choice at all.

The classic in this case, I think, is The Office. It’s on at 9 o'clock on Thursday night. That’s an unbelievably high-profile time period, because CSI, which has been the most popular show on television for years, is also on there, and Grey’s Anatomy, which is a gigantically popular show, is also on there. All three of those shows are now hits because of timeshifting.

So while consumers object to advertisers tracking their online behavior (and yes, that now includes television watching), they’re doing it – and finding some pretty interesting stuff.

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