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A new report from Nielsen, the TV ratings people, shows not only what we're watching, but how we're watching it.
It used to be very simple. A program was on at a certain time and either you watched it when it aired or you didn't see it at all. No DVRs or video on demand. Not even home recording on VHS or Beta.
But today, viewers have so many choices -- not only what to watch from among hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand and Netflix and Hulu. The choice now is also about how to watch -- live or delayed on your giant flat screen or on a variety of other smaller screens from computers to laptops to tablets and phones.
The report says Americans watched "traditional" TV 141 hours a month in the 3rd quarter of 2014. But live viewing dropped a little more than 4 percent, or 12 minutes a day, to 4 hours and 32 minutes on average. Instead, we spent an hour more per month watching time-shifted programs via the internet, which includes streaming services like Netflix.
For advertisers, the obvious challenge is getting their ads seen despite fast-forwarding. Many on-demand outlets now disable the fast-forward function so we can't zip through the ads. So instead, it may end up working the way it did in the "old days," when commercials breaks meant a run to the bathroom, refrigerator or a fast click around the dial to see what else is on. Or with today's technology, we might be checking texts and emails.
Less than half of us now watch TV programs as they air live, Media Daily News reports.
Only 41 percent of us watch the live broadcast, as time-shifting grows in popularity. Watching via DVR is what 43 percent of us now do, as 19 percent use video on demand.
The move to viewing TV on so-called second screens -- mobile devices, PC, laptops and tablets -- isn't happeniong quite as quickly as pundits had been predicting. The vast majority -- 91 percent -- still watch TV on a TV. Laptops account for 12 percent of viewing, tablets 5 percent and somehow 3 percent manage to watch programs on their smartphones. It adds to more than 100 percent due to duplication -- watching on a regular screen and also on a second screen.
Programs like sports and major news events understandably score a higher amount of live viewing.
A Gallup poll just released shows that Americans' confidence in news media continues to decline. A startling 18 percent of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in what they see on TV news, and only a small number more -- 22 percent -- say they have confidfence in what they read in newspapers.
Surprisingly, to me at least, almost the same percentage of people -- 19 percent -- say they have confidence in what they read in online news sites.
The small vote of confidence in online news has remained the same since 1999, when Gallup last included internet news in the poll. What's upsetting to me is the sharp drop in confidence in so-called traditional news sources like newspapers and TV, which had been in the mid-30 percent range 15 years ago.
Gallup says confidence in newspapers has dropped by more than half since its peak, which was 51 percent in 1979. TV news had its highest vote of consumer confidence in 1993, when it stood at 46 percent.
Some of the decline, Gallup says, is due to increasing political polarization in the U.S. Liberals are a bit more trusting of the media than conservatives, which had a small impact on the overall numbers. But Gallup also attributes the decline to the changes in where we get our news and the proliferation of news sources. Even as newspapers fold, more and more cable outlets have news reporting. And where we used to have 3 or 4 major TV news sources and our local daily paper, there are now so many more places where we can get our news, especially online and on cable.
I have to blame some of the decline on the owners of papers and TV outlets, who too often sacrifice quality reporting for the bottom line. The beancounters force cuts in their reporting staffs, which leads to less coverage and sometimes less accurate reporting. That, coupled with the constant battle to be first, causes mistakes to be made. And every time a network or a major paper has to recant a story or admit they missed some details, the news consumers lose confidence.
It may be a cycle from which there's no jumping off. Time will tell.
Nearly half of U.S. homes now have DVRs or other TV time-shifting capabilities -- video on demand, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon TV, for example. More than ever, we are living in the moment... and we get to control when that moment is.
TV and cable networks and ad and media agencies have been trying to deal with the changes in viewing habits that time-shifting is causing. Back a bit more than ten years ago, it was pretty simple to come up with viewership for programs, and thus the ad rates, by relying on Nielsen for ratings. But with the growing availability and popularity of DVRs, as standalone units like TiVo or as part of the home cable package, the media folks had to figure out a better way to measure audience. They first used numbers based on live viewing plus the estimate of time-shifted viewing over the following three days. More recently, it's been live plus 7, reflecting real viewing habits of the majority of us.
The numbers through time-shifting can be significant. A story in Medialife this week reports that the five broadcast networks averaged an additional 1,565,000 viewers when seven-day time-shifting is factored in. For 60 of the more popular shows, time-shifted viewing added 50 percent or more to the total audience. In these days when a modest hit show claims perhaps 4 or 5 million viewers, an additional 1.5 million makes a difference, especially when the nets set their ad rates.
For the mega-hit shows, the time-shifting can come close to doubling the audience. NBC's "The Blacklist" averaged 10.8 million viewers, and another 6.1 million watched the show at their own convenience over the next seven days of the initial airing. ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" gets 8.5 million watching the live airing and another 3.9 million via time-shifting.
Time-shifting is at fairly consistent levels across the age groups, with 33 percent of adults 50+ watching by DVR or video on demand, 38 percent of adults 18 - 49 and 36 percent of teens.
For advertisers, time-shifting presents problems. Many time-shifters with DVRs zip past those costly ads. Video on demand often prevents fast-forwarding, although some nets run fewer and different ads or network promos on VOD.
The "who's actually watching the ads" question is more critical now, with all the viewing options. But even back in the days when we had only three networks, that question was probably a valid one as soon as remote controls became available. And, remote or not, many take a snack or bathroom break during the ads, which then play to an empty room... or maybe just the dog.
For many, it's a Sunday morning ritual, just like poring through the think Sunday newspaper.
"CBS Sunday Morning" has just finished its most-watched season since 1987, when "people meters" were first used to determine the ratings. Six million of us, on average, tuned in to the program, hosted by Charles Osgood.
"Sunday Morning" is a breath of fresh air on TV, offering thoughtful pieces that often go behind the headlines. And they cover odds 'n ends we often don't think about, but find interesting once we see the stories. There's no hype, no hysteria. Just a balanced dose of news and features, reported in a calm, straightforward way.
Congrats to "CBS Sunday Morning." Even in the new "Golden Age of TV," the program stands out and glitters.
Steve McClellan, writing today in Mediapost's Agency Daily reports on a talk by Association of National Advertisers president Bob Liodice. He says marketers can't rely on ads in digital media since it's the least accountable of all media. Viewing levels, some studies show, are only around 50 percent.
Liodice says some estimate that for every dollar spent by marketers on digital, only half is applied to the media itself. So where does the other 50 cents go?
Digital had been thought to be more accurate than other media in terms of who sees those ads. Marketers can, supposedly, track how many clicks and how many "opens" a digital ad gets -- or so we had been led to believe.
Liodice is calling for better measurement and a standard that would cover digital, TV, radio and print.
But even with TV, for example, which relies heavily on Nielsen and others to determine how many people watch a given show, marketers still can't really determine how many viewers actually see an ad. How many of us do some fast channel-surfing while an ad is on, or how many go into the other room to hit the fridge or the bathroom. And now that we have DVRs, how many just zip through the ads?
It's a really tough challenge. And it just makes the case even stronger for using other marketing tools including public relations, which, if done right, will get people to read or watch or listen to your message. (I know... a shameless plug for what I do, but when the shoe fits...)
Jimmy Kimmel did it again. Looks like many people on news desks at local TV stations and some networks just don't verify stuff when it's on the web.
Kimmel phonied up footage of a wolf supposedly stalking the dorms where the Olympics athletes are housed, and he got U.S. Olympic team member Kate Hansen to post it on her YouTube feed.
Take a look at all these newscasters around the country who talked about it, thinking it was the real thing. It's a funny clip, but it points again to a serious problem with the authenticity of things we see online.