What’s really happening with TV viewing? People are watching great programs over 28 days.

A lot has been happening at Rentrak lately, but I wanted to take time to discuss an important subject.

The media and marketing trade press has been commenting recently on the decline in TV viewing, primarily based on sample-based data. One thing that has been missing in this conversation, I believe, is the element of time, e.g. viewing beyond three or even seven days, as well as viewing across multiple platforms. And what Rentrak is showing.

Rentrak has a way to look at what is happening in terms of time and key TV platforms. With our Multiscreen Essentials® (MSE) system, I could look at 33 common networks (see the list at the end of the blog), across third quarter 2013 and third quarter 2014. This service reports episode-level viewing for programs that were common across live TV, DVR playback for up to 15 days, and Video on Demand (VOD) viewing for up to 28 days. In both quarters, the number of episodes reported on was virtually identical (66.9 thousand vs. 67.5 thousand). A user can get episode-level detail—something that only Rentrak’s massive and passive database can provide.

The bottom line was that, for these shows (virtually all of which were primetime episodes), the total viewing was virtually unchanged. The chart below shows that the sum of the average household audiences was approximately 45 million for both years’ respective quarters.

Bruce Goerlich Blog Chart

Looking at the same data on a percent change basis year-to-year shows the same picture, but indicates the shift in viewership. Live is down, but the combination of DVR and VOD after three days is up, balancing out the total audience level.

Bruce Goerlich Blog Chart

Finally, it is clear that time-shifted TV viewers as well as DVR and VOD audiences, while still the minority, are growing as a percent of the total. The chart below, which demonstrates the share of viewership, shows that live viewing has dropped three percent from 2013 to 2014.

Bruce Goerlich Blog Chart

So, while MSE does not have all TV shows and networks in Prime, it is clear that consumers, when given the opportunity, will find their favorite shows and watch them. To say that ad-supported TV is declining without looking at viewership across time and major platforms misses the reality of America’s continued love affair with the tube.

List of Networks in MSE Report

ABC
ABC Family Channel
Adult Swim
American Movie Classics
BBC America
BET: Black Entertainment Television
Bravo
Cartoon Network
CBS
CMT: Country Music Television
CNN
Comedy Central
E! – Entertainment Television
FOX
FX Network
FXX
Hallmark
Logo
MTV: Music Television
MTV2
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Wild
NBC
Oxygen
Spike TV
Syfy
TBS: Turner Broadcasting System
TNT: Turner Network Television
truTV
TV Land
USA
VH1
Women’s Entertainment Network

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

TV Engagement at the Local Market Level

How local TV used to be measured in the United States reminds me of the iconic fairy tale Cinderella. There was a wicked stepmother who treated her own daughters well, but Cindy got the shaft (or at least the broom). Local TV used to just be a hodge-podge of small samples, a mixture of varying methods of differing quality, which produced differing results, bouncing numbers, and many, many markets with hardly any clothes—I mean, rating information—at all.

Well, in real life, like the fairy tale, there is a Prince Charming to rescue the fair maiden. [1] Rentrak’s massive and passive measurement will soon include 60 million TVs and 26 million homes. That will be about one in four households. Our approach is the same in each market—365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

One great thing we are able to do is provide metrics that have traditionally been just the province of national TV—like engagement, or what we call “stickiness.” As noted in previous blogs, Rentrak’s measure compares the average percentage of a program or series viewed to the average of programs of the same duration to create a comparable metric across programs of different lengths. (It is easier to watch 50 percent of a 30-minute show than a 60-minute show.) Average percent viewed has been validated as being directly correlated to advertising effectiveness from work done at the media agency Zenith.

An example is below from an actual market with actual TV shows. This shows the straightforward rating (vertical axis), and average percent viewed (horizontal axis). For clarity, news programs are green diamonds, game shows are blue boxes, sitcoms are purple circles, and gossip shows are orange triangles.

Bruce's Blog Charts – September-01

Looking at programs this way gives leverage points to all sides. The station airing the 10 p.m. news can say, “My ratings aren’t the highest, but I have a high average percent viewed.” The agency can say to the station airing the third 10 p.m. news show, “You have high ratings, but your audience isn’t very engaged.” However, the “fairest way in the land” to look at the shows, is to employ Rentrak’s Stickiness Index—or TV engagement metric—as mentioned above. The chart below takes the same programs, indexes the ratings to the average of the selected shows, and applies the duration-based Stickiness Index.

Bruce's Blog Charts – September-02

There is not a lot of movement in the upper-right quadrant of higher ratings and higher engagement except celebrity news slips a little bit in terms of Stickiness value. The big news is the shift into the high Stickiness, lower rating quadrant of two news shows and a game show. This is because, compared to other shows of the same duration, they have a lot of engaged viewers.

I’ll be glad to share the actual data with any Rentrak client. And yes, these charts are produced along with a spreadsheet in Rentrak’s local system—though they have “been put in a prettier dress” for the ball.

Not a fairy tale and a happy ending!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

[1] I’m not talking about Rentrak’s EVP of Local Television, Steve Walsh—though he could play the part.

TV Celebrates Itself (Why Awards Shows Benefit Advertisers & Actors)

Television’s grand pat on its own back—the Primetime Emmy® Awards—are coming up in a few weeks on NBC. And besides getting high ratings (last year the 65th annual shindig got a 12.0 rating by Rentrak*) and letting all those people in Hollywood with such low self-esteem receive a shiny object to bolster their low sense of self-worth, the Emmys® have multiple benefits for advertisers.

First off, let’s look at engagement. In terms of social media chatter, the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy® Awards received a 712 index in terms of volume of conversation. It was the top performing social media network primetime show for that month. Awards are something people like to talk about—as I have mentioned in previous blogs. But the real meat of it was in the ability of the 65th Emmys® to deliver Advanced Demographics (targets for viewers that buy cars, have good credit scores, etc., which only Rentrak can measure given our millions of homes). Now the casual reader can skip over this paragraph or just ponder the infographic below as your author gets into some media math. The smart media buyer (at least from the school of Irwin Gotlieb where I was taught) doesn’t just look at a program score. The first thing to realize, is that CBS Prime shows do very well against most key Advanced Demographics. For example, in terms of buying a new car, CBS had a 116 index. That is, the average CBS TV show (weighted for duration and number of occurrences), was 16 percent more likely to reach a new car buyer in the month of Sept. 2013 than to reach the general population.

Since it is difficult to buy a single program, buyers look at the index of the show compared to the average index of all CBS shows as part of the schedule package. In this case, the 65th Emmys® had a 122 index. So compared to all CBS shows, it had a 105 index (122/116). Complicated? Yes, but it is the comparison within a network within a daypart that drives how the TV business is mostly sold today.

Programmatic buying math will be for another day! So let’s look at just a few key Advanced Demographics indices for the 65th Emmys®. One where it didn’t do well (honesty is good!) is with buyers of new pickups. There it had a 91 index (all indices here use the method described above). For buyers of new luxury cars, however, the awards show had a 122 index, which ranked it number one among luxury car buyers for all CBS series for the month. For those with high Vantage (credit worthiness) scores, it had a 129 index. Okay, so it didn’t do well among conservatives (84 index), but the 65th Emmys® were number one with liberals—with a 119 index. And the categories aren’t just what you would expect. The 65th Emmys® earned a 117 index with high grocery spenders—again number one for the category for the network for the month.

So, to sum up, Tinseltown delivers a lot of people, a lot of chatter, and a lot of valuable eyeballs.

* : Kind of ironic isn’t it that if the Emmy® Awards was a person and we used traditional age/sex demographics, it wouldn’t be picked up in the tried and true swath of A25-54?

Rentrak-Emmys-Infographic_final

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Buying and Renting Movies and TV Shows Online—Legally! It’s a Big Business and Getting Bigger. Rentrak Is There to Prove It.

Movie studios and TV networks are realizing there is a way to collect revenue on the Internet for their content directly from consumers. (Rentrak has been collecting this data since 2006 and we are permitted to show some of this data from 2012 onwards.) There are two main methods used. Pardon me while I go into “lingo land” so that you know what I am talking about:

EST = Electronic Sell-Through

  • The purchase of digital content by a consumer who pays a one-time fee for a perpetual license to view the content. EST is essentially the digital equivalent of buying a DVD or Blu-ray Disc (BD).
  • EST content may either be downloaded or streamed through services offering access to a virtual locker.
  • Major data providers include Apple’s iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy, Google Play, Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, and Walmart’s Vudu—to name but a few.

iVOD = Internet Video On Demand

  • The rental of digital content by a consumer where a fee is paid for a pre-determined window of time in which that specific content can be viewed an unlimited number of times. iVOD is the digital equivalent of renting a DVD/BD.
  • iVOD content may either be downloaded or streamed.
  • See above for major data providers.

Let’s first take a look at EST movies. What has been the trend in buying movies on the Internet? (Or from the cloud, which sounds cooler—am I showing my age?)

EST Chart

As the chart above shows, selling movies online is becoming a pretty good business for the studios. (Rentrak captures information from the seven major studios plus a number of independent studios). Since the beginning of January 2012 to April 2014, the number of movies sold online has virtually doubled. In addition, there are peak periods around Christmas—for gift giving—as well as when specific “hot titles” hit, like Disney’s “Frozen” did in March of this year.

However, the rental of movies online has not shown the same growth rate as purchasing—growing only about 25 percent since January 2012 as shown in the chart below. There is a key reason for this. Because EST margins are much bigger for the studios than either digital rentals, or DVD/BD sales/rentals, the studios are providing movies via EST with an early release window—usually 1-2 weeks prior to VOD, iVOD or DVD/BD. Bottom line, studios are hoping to bolster EST with early windowing for tent-pole titles and key independent titles. Consumers have an access-first mentality; if they can get the movie now, why wait? It’s the consumer preference for going to see a movie on the opening weekend expressed in a digital age.

iVOD Chart

In terms of TV shows, we can only show information on EST, because TV shows are not available via iVOD, which existed only as a short experiment by Apple with ABC/Disney as the only studio signing on. In regards to EST, the chart below shows that purchasing TV programs via the cloud has grown at about the same rate as movies—doubling since January 2012.

Web-based Order Volume Chart

And this is not just an online phenomenon. Major “traditional” video content distributors like Comcast and Verizon FiOS now provide an EST option for their customers. In fact, Comcast had a public success of its EST launch with the announcement that it took the number one spot in digital sales of Universal’s “Despicable Me 2″ in early December 2013.

I think that it is very interesting to see how careful (and smart) the video content providers are being in this digital age. Compare the growth in the digital sale of movies and TV shows in the past two years with sales and downloads of music. As reported by Billboard in first quarter 2014, digital music sales were down 13.1 percent and CD sales were down 20 percent. In comparison, video providers have been carefully managing their content, looking to maximize revenue as the consumer shifts from physical ownership of video to virtual consumption. Digital does not have to equal death. Digital can equal dollar$.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues—which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Social Media & Television: Which Cable Programs Get the Buzz?

“Happy talk, keep talking happy talk.
Talk about things you’d like to do.
You gotta have a dream. If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”

“South Pacific” – Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.


As reported in my May 19 blog post, Rentrak has been partnering with social media tracking companies over the past several years and publishing a weekly “TV Engagement” or “Stickiness” report that covers ad-supported primetime programs. In that blog, I talked about the level of social media chatter about network TV shows in Prime.

That blog pointed out that if an advertiser is looking for broadcast network Prime shows that are the “crème de la crème” in generating buzz, they should look to “Awards” and “Sports” first. “Drama,” “Nighttime Soaps” and “Teen-Oriented” programs also get a lot of talk. It is interesting to note that this reflects the conventional wisdom of what shows used to get talked about the morning after they aired around the water cooler or in the halls of high school.

As mentioned before, in 2013, we partnered for most of the year with Trendrr, and then later with General Sentiment, to create our weekly reports on the most “buzzed” about ad-supported Primetime broadcast network and cable TV programs. The two companies have different ways of scoring social media chatter about TV shows, so to make a fair comparison for the whole year, I averaged each service’s score and indexed their reported programs to their own average. So what you will see in the following charts are program counts for both services for the entirety of 2013, as well as the average indices by genre for both services.

In this blog, I will focus just on ad-supported cable shows in Prime. It is very important to note that all of these ad-supported Prime cable shows were the most talked about ad-supported Prime cable shows during the week in which they aired. An index above 100 just means that, within the most talked about ad-supported Prime cable shows, the show was even more talked aboutAn index below 100 means that, within the most talked about ad-supported Prime shows, this show was less talked about.

So let’s look first at the volume of chatter by program genre for ad-supported cable Prime shows in 2013. As before, I’ve done my own personal classification here (in part to protect the innocent), but also to reflect the nuances of social media buzz about TV programs.

# of Cable Shows by Genre

The chart above shows the number of times a show in this genre appeared in our weekly list for ad-supported cable Prime top 20 most talked about shows in 2013. It is a count of occurrences on our weekly list. The greatest number of talked about ad-supported cable Prime shows in 2013 were in the “Reality” genre, followed by “Drama,” “Sports” and “Comedy.” “Drama,” “Reality” and “Comedy” also were often talked about for broadcast Prime as was pointed out in the May 19 blog. However, “Competition” (e.g. “So You Think You Can Dance”) was number the number one genre for the broadcast networks, but was number six for cable.

The chart below looks at the average index of the shows in the genre compared to the average of all talked about shows over 2013 in ad-supported cable Prime. As in broadcast Prime, Award shows on ad-supported cable networks are the most talked about programming. The high score for awards shows in cable is due to not only the basic human appeal of talking about winners (and losers) but also to the fact that cable awards shows are geared to younger viewers (e.g. music awards) who are more likely to be chatting with each other.

Average Genre Index

So “the end is our beginning” as T.S. Eliot said. What generates conversation about TV shows? What has always generated conversation: shows with glamorous stars, shows with an edge of competition with winners and losers, shows with dramatic plot twists, shows that really make you laugh, and shows that have a particular appeal to the young. This holds true across broadcast and cable.


“It might be a fight like you see on the screen,
A swain getting slain for the love of a queen,
Some great Shakespearean scene,
Where a ghost and a prince meet,
And everyone ends in mincemeat. 

A clown with his pants falling down,
Or the dance that’s a dream of romance,
Or the scene where the villain is mean.
That’s entertainment!”

“That’s Entertainment!” – Music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz.

The Power of Video on Demand

Here’s a quick little blog for the fan base about how Video on Demand (VOD) can be an effective advertising tool.

In this case, I am talking about networks advertising themselves (e.g. using promos to get tune-ins). Rentrak does a fair amount of work on the effectiveness of promos, which is how many people “convert” to viewing a show when they see a promo for it.

Now turning to VOD, one nice thing about the millions of return path TVs Rentrak has is our ability to look in detail at TV viewing across linear (that’s the lingo for plain old programming) TV and VOD. We can look at duplication of viewership. So we can see what happens when a network runs a “teaser” for a new show on VOD, and then see how many tune into the program on linear TV. Guess what? We see that VOD teasers for new programs have a higher conversion rate than traditional promos.

Bruce Blog Chart

Now these aren’t controlled experiments, neither are they the same shows, so fellow research nerds don’t give me a hard time!

But these results give an indication that those people who chose to watch VOD are more involved. It requires positive action to select and view the VOD teaser. And if the teaser is good enough, it does have the power to get people to take subsequent action and watch the full program. Bottom line, VOD involves and gives power to the viewer, which is the new world of marketing. Promos, while effective, exist in the older model of “pushing” at the consumer. VOD is the world of tomorrow’s marketing, today.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Social Media & Television: Which Programs Get the Buzz?

As Oscar Wilde said: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Rentrak has been partnering with social media tracking companies over the past several years and publishing a weekly “TV engagement” or “stickiness” report that covers ad-supported primetime programs. I recently wrote about “stickiness,” our internal measure of engagement (see my earlier post, “What’s Engaging about TV?”). I now would like to turn to the level of social media chatter about TV shows—a metric that can also be seen as an engagement measure. Both “stickiness” and a social media index are covered in our free weekly report. You can contact me at bruce.goerlich@rentrak.com to get your own weekly copy.

In 2013, we partnered for most of the year with Trendrr, and then later with General Sentiment, to create our weekly reports on the most “buzzed” about ad-supported primetime broadcast network and cable TV programs. The two companies have different ways of scoring social media chatter about TV shows, so to make a fair comparison for the whole year, I averaged each service’s score and indexed their reported programs to their own average. So what you will see in the following charts are program counts for both services for the entirety of 2013, as well as the average indices by program type for both services. In this blog, I will focus just on broadcast prime network shows. Primetime cable shows will follow in the next blog. It is very important to note that all of these broadcast shows were the most talked about broadcast shows during the week in which they aired. An index above 100 just means that, within the most talked about broadcast prime shows, the show was even more talked about. An index below 100 means that, within the most talked about broadcast prime shows, this show was less talked about.

So let’s look first at the volume of chatter by program genre for broadcast network shows in 2013. I’ve done my own personal classification here (in part to protect the innocent), but also to reflect the nuances of social media buzz about TV programs.

GoerlichBlog-NumberofShowsByGenre

The highest number of talked about Broadcast Prime shows in 2013 were in the “Competition” genre, which includes singing and dancing competitions, as well as beauty and modeling contests. The “Drama” category came next, which includes a whole slew of sub-genres like “Detective/Mystery,” “Fantasy,” “Medical” and “Nighttime Soap Operas.” “Reality” was a distant third, followed by “Comedy,” “Sports” and “Awards.”

However, the volume of social media buzz looks very different by genre, as the chart below shows.Average Genre Index

“Awards” and “Sports” are far and away the most buzzworthy categories in Broadcast Prime. People like to talk about who won the Academy Awards, who won the People’s Choice awards and so on. And sports have been talked about since the days of boat racing in ancient Egypt along the Nile. Social media has just enhanced our ability to talk about things we like to talk about. Again, I want to emphasize that the shows in the other genres were all highly talked about, just not as talked about as awards and sports shows.

So let’s break down two genres a bit more: “Drama” and “Competition.” As mentioned above, there are several sub-Genres within “Drama.” The chart below illustrates the number of mentions of these in our 2013 reports.

GoerlichBlog-DramaShowsBySub-Genre
There were a lot of teen-oriented dramas talked about in 2013. These are shows like “The Carrie Diaries”, “Glee” and the “Vampire Chronicles.” “Detective/Mystery” was next with shows like “NCIS,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “Castle.” “Medical” includes shows like “Bones,” “Gray’s Anatomy” and “Rookie Blue.” “Fantasy” has shows like “Sleepy Hollow,” “Once Upon a Time” and “Under the Dome.” “Nighttime Soaps” include “Revenge,” “Nashville” and “Scandal.” “Action” has shows like “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and “Revolution.”

Again, the picture changes when we look at the average index for these sub-genres. “Broadcast Nighttime Soaps” have the highest average indices in the “Drama” genre. The plot twists and cliffhangers in these shows are made for social media buzz. And “Teen” shows come next. In my youth, it was my teenage sister talking on her “princess phone” about “The Monkees.” Now it is tweets and posts from Millennials.

GoerlichBlog-AverageSubGenreIndex
We can just briefly recap the “Competition” genre. Over 90 percent of the shows were the singing/dancing competitions like “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” These shows had an average index of 91.

So in summary, if an advertiser is looking for broadcast network prime shows that are the “crème de la crème” in generating buzz, they should look to “Awards” and “Sports” first. “Competition,” “Drama,” “Nighttime Soaps” and “Teen-Oriented” programs also get a lot of talk.

It is interesting to note that this reflects the “conventional wisdom” of the broadcast era gone by. It was the “office water cooler” where people talked about special events on TV and the “big game.” Teens talked with each other a lot, on the phone, or in parking lot of the drive-through about who on TV was cute and who was bad.

The technology has changed and broadened our ability to talk with each other, but the basic human interest in interesting, exciting and relevant stories remains.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.