When Digital TV Episodes Have Lots Of Commercials, Viewers Will Go To Other Screens

Competing TV screens or complementary TV screens?

The CW has been cheered by media buyers not only because it offers a similar number of commercials online as it does on its traditional network, but because its young-skewing viewers "watch" the commercials to completion. (Media buyers also love that the CW's online CPMs are more in line with traditional TV CPMs -- way less than other premium digital TV content.)

Some research executives would tell you that existing Nielsen measuring technology or any ratings measurement -- doesn't report "viewing" but rather "tuning." With the coming of future digital inventory, this will become more glaring.

A recent study by Digital Clarity said 80% of those 25 and under use a second screen to communicate with friends while watching TV. That would represent virtually all the young-skewing audience of a network like the CW or MTV. So while viewers may "watch" commercials to completion online, we know this: they are doing something else while those ad messages are running.



Now extrapolate this to older-skewing networks. Why? If the proponents of TV Everywhere get their way, all shows online will have nearly the same number of commercials as those on traditional TV. And one big, big not-too-friendly consumer function: they won't be able to fast-forward through those commercials.

That will mean that use of second screens will surely rise among older viewers. Those who have DVRs -- now 40% of U.S. TV homes -- have changed their entertainment behavior dramatically when it comes to traditionally delivered commercials. Many DVR viewers -- some would say virtually all - fast-forward through commercials.

Does anyone really believe viewers will go back to running to the kitchen for a snack or muting the volume of commercials when dialing up "Modern Family" on the ABC Full Episode Player?

What will they be doing? A variation on what they did in the past: changing channels - or, using a digital world term, changing content.

Many TV networks will then only hope that viewers -- if not looking at commercials -- will at least turn to their second screens to promote/share program content with other viewers.

But then again, maybe they'll do something totally unconnected with traditional TV content or messaging. Then you'll have issues.

3 comments about "When Digital TV Episodes Have Lots Of Commercials, Viewers Will Go To Other Screens ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, April 14, 2011 at 6:21 p.m.

    I have a copy of an old PBS special from 1992 that illustrates the problem of viewing inattention two decades ago. Nothing new, just worse as viewers have more distractions. Paula is correct. People read during commercials. Now they surf their laptops, too. And study their smart phones. And watch other shows on their iPads. Still, we look up if there's a clever or compelling ad, which is how it should be.

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, April 14, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.

    Here's what's funny. Everyone talks about this inattention problem, DVR's, yada-yada-yada.

    But, here are the facts:

    1. Nothing is as effective at making big things happen commercially as television advertising. Nothing. In fact, nothing comes close.

    2. I'm surprised Wayne used the DVR canard. It's becoming pretty wall proven that DVR's have turned out to have, at worst, no impact on ad effectiveness and, in many studies, they seem to have actually improved ad effectiveness.

    Remember, the people who talk most about skipping "EVERY" commercial with their DVR are:

    1. Lying.
    2. Ignoring the information they pick up while skipping.
    3. Generally are the digerati - highly involved in advertising or media.

    At the same time, I agree that commercials may drive viewers to other screens. But it seems that the free market truth is that if they can't get enough money to just throw everything for free on these little screens, then the big screens have proven their economic value and should stay.

  3. Chris Vinson from Vinson Advertising, April 15, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.

    Thanks Wayne,

    Good topic. X amount of people always have tuned out commercials one way or another. Remember the channel surfing dad with his remote control? Radio listeners have always hit the button. That is why we buy media based on opportunity to see or hear. You said that people have to watch internet ads but I tune them out all the time. TV still works. We proved it again this month.

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