Yes, We Watch Online, But Overwhelmingly We Watch TV Fare

What you watch differs from what device you use to do it.  

And the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau’s CEO Sean Cunningham is visiting Madison Avenue ad agencies to remind them that overwhelmingly, what people are watching is television.

It’s TV on a screen or a tablet, DVRed, streamed or bought through Hulu and others.

The new CAB report, titled “Get Real: Video Advertising 2015” uses Nielsen and comScore data from Q4 2014 to determine that of the 175 hours Americans spent watching during that time period, 80% -- that’s 140 hours -- was spent watching “multiscreen TV content.” Pnly 20% was spent with all Internet activity from the other “four major online portals” (Google, AOL, Yahoo and MSN) and Facebook combined.

There’s one major swerve in this research. The report is not counting Netflix or Amazon viewership and other ad-free online sources because its audiences aren’t measured by Nielsen or comScore.

But among commercially supported content suppliers, for example, the CAB report says that one more or less ordinary (but heavily repeated) television show -- HGTV’s “Property Brothers’’ -- had slightly more ad impressions (2.36 billion) from all sources in September 2014 than did the 10-most-viewed YouTube channels combined (2.355 billion). That group includes Vevo, Maker Studios, Machinima, Fullscreen, Zefr, Warner Music Group and Broadband TV.

The number of ad impressions from watching just the Food Network in September equaled all the ad impressions on YouTube that month.

“There is an environment of evolution. There’s some validity to that,” Cunningham conceded in an interview, emphasizing he wasn’t at all trying to trash-talk digital media, but just trying to give a clearer view of what’s being watched. “The shift in viewership is really happening. It’s the size and pace we have to pay attention to.”

But he said advertisers and marketers may be seduced by that changing tide and for now, overestimating it. After all, it’s all they hear about.

“ ‘Dramatic headline’ is happening,” Cunningham quipped. “ ‘Dramatic conference-speak’ is happening.”

But, he says, the research results show viewers overwhelmingly still choose “professionally produced content,” and that’s the milieu of television producers. Cunningham has taken to referring to what he dubs “Attention Definition Disorder” as a condition in which marketers forget what it is that people are actually watching.

“Get Real” says TV-related Web sites either lead or have multiple places in the “top 5” across important content genres online, including news, sports, food, kids, weather, comedy, gaming, home, music and entertainment. It also dominates the top-ranked tablet apps in 11 content categories.

The CAB research says the average viewer spent 5,361 minutes watching ad supported TV content in September, compared to just 310.5 minutes on YouTube, which a graph notes is “primarily UGC,” or user generated content. That 95%-5% split is narrowed slightly to 88%-12% when only measuring 18-24s.

One slide takes some of YouTube’s best known brands -- like Maker Studios, for example -- and lists about 30 of its channels in small type, and then adds, “plus 1,000 more channels.”

The CAB’s point is that reach can’t be based on just adding up a lot of splintered one- or two-second views. Effective campaigns, it would argue, can’t somehow forget mass audiences.  

The report says, as a preface to one slide, that “The mistake is a mind-set or strategy that looks to use the ad tech video brands as a surrogate, substitute or replacement for the multiscreen TV brands.”

Cunningham added, by phone: “The focus [by online brands] is not on content. The focus is on ad tech. It’s on algorithm. It’s on precise targeting. It’s the magic in the data.”

When CAB takes its 48-slide media show to agencies, Cunningham said, it’s important to him that the numbers comes from established sources, like Nielsen and comScore. “That data is available on every allocator’s dashboard,” he said. “These aren’t exotic conclusions. There’s a lot of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Research out there.”
7 comments about "Yes, We Watch Online, But Overwhelmingly We Watch TV Fare".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 26, 2015 at 1:09 p.m.

    I've seen this excuse before. First, it was "only 5%" and then only 10%. Now it's only 20%. Ten years ago I read that DVRs were only 5% of viewing and now they are over half. The question is not how much today but where in the short-run (is the tipping point). Also, including in the calculation a cohort of viewers who are a decade from their dirt nap (yes, I turn 65 this year) is deceptive. What are the young viewers doing? That should be a better clue to the trajectory. But the ad agencies want to believe Sean, because their livelihood is built on the past.

  2. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, January 26, 2015 at 1:28 p.m.

    Follow the younger audiences on where they source content including live sports streams and you will see the Napsterizing of the TV industry.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 26, 2015 at 2:17 p.m.

    Douglas, just out of curiosity, where did you come up with the finding that DVRs now account for half of all TV viewing? Approximately half of all TV homes now have a DVR attached to at least one of their TV sets. Is that the basis for your contention?

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, January 26, 2015 at 5:23 p.m.

    Ed, some Aussie DVR data you may find interesting. Of homes that have a DVR (around a half), around 40% of homes use the DVR (for at least one minute) in a typical day. Around 60% of homes use the DVR in a typical week, and around 80% of homes use the DVR in a typical quarter (3 months). These ratios have been pretty static across the past couple of years even as penetration has grown. Put another way - around one-in-five DVRs aren't used (probably in-built DVRs in a TV that the owner is not aware of).

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 26, 2015 at 5:50 p.m.

    Interesting info, John. Trying to be fair, I did a few calculations recently on the stats cited for a typical primetime show recently----don't ask, I don't remember which one. According to the data---based on average commercial minute " viewers", the show reached about 2.5 million 18-49s "live" and this expanded to roughly double that over seven days on a delayed basis. So its total commercial minute reach was about 5.0 million. But how many people did this show actually reach---as a program, not just the commercials-----per minute. If we assume that 50% of delayed program viewers used their DVRs to edit out, or otherwise skip, the commercials that means that they were excluded, hence the shows' average minute audience, in terms of program content, was about 7.5 million, not the 2.5 million that was reported under the current commercial minute "live"rating definition. Now that's a big difference and certainly has significance for network programmers, if not advertisers. I wonder how many of them are taking the time to look at the stats in this manner. But this is not a truly typical situation. As it happens, most of the DVR activity centers around primetime broadcast network shows, certain cable entries and a relatively small number of specials, sports features, etc. In other words, a minority of TV's content.The majority of TV's less cerebral fare---and there is plenty of it----is not taped for delayed viewing because it's not worth the bother. That's why DVR taping ----and commercial "zapping" ----is not nearly as great, tonnage-wise, as some people think. Only about 10-15%% of TV telecasts---I may be high on this estimate---- are sufficiently enticing to cause people to tape them in the first place.

  6. John Grono from GAP Research, January 26, 2015 at 6:23 p.m.

    For clarification, the reach definition used was at least one minute of ANY television (any programme, any channel - programme or ad content) during the day/week/quarter. That is, any one of the 1,440 minutes in a day, 10,080 minutes in a week, 131,040 minutes in a quarter. The definition of 'time-shifting' was more than one second different to broadcast times (i.e. pausing live via the DVR is time-shifting). I'm sure you would agree that is 'generous'. Here in Australia most DVR activity centres around dramas, movies and serials. We see more like 90% drop off in viewership in the ad-breaks for those time-shifting. Our 'currency' here is 'programme' (start-to-end) average minute audience rather than commercial minute. Savvy buyers analyse the time-shifted viewing to identify the ad-breaks and then re-calculate the ratings (live + time-shift) based on those ad-minutes and use that in their buy negotiations. I agree that a non-prime programme with a high time-shift proportion (but low live viewing) would be unfairly judged by extrapolation from live commercial minute data.

  7. Fred Pfaff from Fred Pfaff Inc., January 27, 2015 at 5:03 p.m.

    Isn't the primary question for advertisers, "Where do I have the best chance of getting the most time and attention from the greatest number of potential consumers?" If that's true, what's spent needs to match what's now and what's real. The primary draw is clearly TV content. Interestingly enough, the portals and Facebook are credited with all activity - not merely video viewing - so the actual video time differentials are likely much greater than reported.

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