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.

The Power of Local TV

There are those in the advertising industry who scoff, nay bray, at the supposed decline of local TV stations. I don’t believe this to be true. The power of local TV is in its localness—its ability to connect and unite communities. The best example of this is the reaction of TV viewers to traumatic events. This blog talked about the reaction of viewers to Hurricane Sandy last fall where TV viewing increased during the storm in the East Coast markets. The same phenomenon happened during the horrible tornados in May in Oklahoma. The chart below shows what happened to TV viewing levels in Oklahoma City the day the storm hit, compared to the same day a week before.

Oklahoma City HUT% (Monday Prior to Tornado and Monday Day of Tornado)

Viewing levels on Monday, May 20, were higher starting around 8 a.m. and leapt up when the storm hit at approximately 3 p.m. (Note that Rentrak’s HUT includes viewing of multiple TV sets in the home, so our HUTs can rise over 100 percent.)

The aftermath of the storm continued to bring in high viewership as people tuned in to understand more about what had happened. The chart below shows viewing levels the day after the storm, along with levels for the same day of the week prior. Viewing was up throughout the day.Oklahoma City HUT% (Day After the Tornado and Week Before)

This increase in viewing went disproportionately to the broadcast stations in the market. As the table below shows, HUT went up the day of the storm by 18 percent on average. However, the share of viewing to the major broadcast affiliates went up by 58 percent.

Viewing Levels in Oklahoma City - May 2013

This is not to say that cable news viewing did not go up as well—it did. But local TV news is still the dominant place to which the public turns in times of crisis. Brevity being the soul of wit, I have not included the results for Wichita and Sherman. But the results are the same, increase in HUTs during the storm, and a disproportionate increase for broadcast stations. Please contact me if you wish to see that data.

As an aside, I believe that advertising is about story telling. Marketers are telling stories about their brands. And any storyteller wants to tell her story in a place where the listener is disposed to be trusting and attentive. Local TV clearly is that sort of place.

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.

Sandy & TV Viewing

I’ll be doing at least two blog posts on how TV viewing was impacted by Hurricane Sandy. I thought a quick look at one market would provide a nice soupçon of insight. Rentrak is able to report all markets before, after and during the storm. Our “big data” approach means we don’t go black. Our clients can see what happens in November.

The chart below shows actual Homes Using Television (HUT) by hour for the Monday before the storm, October 22nd, and Monday, October 29thwhen the storm hit for the New York market. This is based on the approximately 90,000 homes Rentrak has in the market. (Note that our HUTs are higher than the traditional metric because we do not filter out duplicate viewing. When a home views more than one program, we will count that home twice in our HUT.) What you can clearly see is an increase in HUT versus the 22nd on the 29th in the daytime hours, when many more people were at home…and then the storm hit, power was lost in many areas, and viewership fell. 

ImageThe share of viewing that major affiliates had is also interesting. Their viewing picked up during the daytime, and held fairly steady, even as the storm raged. The bump in their viewing share in an hour and a half in Prime on October 22nd was due to the Presidential debate. 

ImageWe will inspect other viewing issues related to the storm in our next blog, along with a wider look at more markets. Bottom line, Rentrak’s motto maybe should be changed to that of the old mail carriers, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” I’ll ask our CEO what he thinks of that! 

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.