The Commercial Value Index: Assessing TV Audience Value In The Age Of Dvrs
Loyal viewers who watch our commercials: there’s not much more an advertiser can ask of a network.
Last year, when I was working as a consultant, I developed the Commercial Value Index, designed to rank cable networks on which were best at minimizing commercial avoidance among their viewers. This year I added a viewer loyalty component.
The impetus for the CVI was my frustration when I was on the media agency side of the business. During numerous upfront presentations every year, there would invariably be a handful of cable networks that tried to sell me on some sort of value factors that went beyond Nielsen ratings. In some cases they would come up with some nifty new name for their viewers based on psychographic or custom research to explain why their audience was better than everyone else’s.
While some of these presentations were interesting, most were fundamentally flawed, and not viable for measuring viewer involvement, engagement, or activation on any current or ongoing basis. Creating a static audience picture from six months or a year ago is not particularly useful in a world where a network’s programming is often in a continual state of flux.
So what I tried to do was develop a better set of value factors that could be objectively used at any point during the season to evaluate all cable networks. There are a few attributes I believe are essential for developing actionable value factors:
- The measurement should focus both on program engagement and minimizing commercial avoidance.
- The data should be transparent. One should be able to provide the analysis to support how the factors were derived.
- The results should be easily replicated. A buyer, planner, or researcher should be able to do the analysis at any time during the year, covering any period of time, daypart, or demo (using current data).
- The factors should be based on marketplace currency data, to avoid a claim that the value factors or indexes are based on metrics some people don’t believe in or use.
Last year, three element smade up the CVI:
Holding Power: The amount of time the average viewer spends per viewing session. Some refer to this as Length of Tuning. The longer viewers are tuned to a network, the more likely they are to be exposed to the commercial. This data is available from Nielsen’s NPower system.
Commercial Audience Retention: Less channel switching during commercials means greater viewer involvement and a higher degree of commercial viewing. This is calculated by dividing the Live Commercial Minute Rating by the Live Program Rating.
Live Viewing: With DVR penetration approaching 50% percent of the U.S. (higher for demos under 50), commercial avoidance via fast-forwarding is more common than ever (often more than 50% for original scripted dramas). Nielsen cannot fully measure this phenomenon (C3 misses a substantial amount of fast-forwarding). Aside from minimizing channel switching, the best way to minimize commercial avoidance is to maximize the percentage of live viewing. This is calculated by dividing the Live Rating by the Live+7 Rating.
This year, a fourth element -- a measure of viewer loyalty -- has been added to the mix:
10+ Hours of Viewing Per Month: There are a number of potential measures of viewer loyalty. I chose to look at the percentage of a network’s audience that watches 10 or more hours of the network per month. This gets rid of surfers and browsers, and hones in on viewers who watch more than just one or two programs -- the most loyal (regular) viewers. This data is available through NPower.
The score for each category is divided by the average for all cable networks to arrive at an independent index for each network. Then the three indexes are averaged to arrive at the Commercial Value Index.
Among Adults 18-49, the top 10 ranked cable entertainment networks during 4th Quarter 2011 were: Adult Swim, ION, Nick at Nite, USA, BET, TBS, Food, Bravo, A&E, and ABC Family.
Among Women 18-49, the top 10 were: Adult Swim, Nick at Nite, ION, BET, HGTV, Food, Bravo, TBS, A&E, and TNT.
Among Men 18-49, the top 10 were: Adult Swim, ION, USA, BET, Nick-at-Nite, TBS, Discovery, Tru TV, History, and Comedy Central.