Poltrack Fast-Forwards DVR Playback, Predicts Higher Commercial Ratings

A CBS senior executive predicts that increased DVR playback viewing will result in higher commercial ratings next year--just when the networks are expected to shift to an advertising currency of commercial ratings.

"For the big shows--the most popular shows--it's quite feasible that there'll be more delivery of advertising exposures than they have now--even discounting for all the fast forwarding," says David Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS and president of CBS Vision.

The most popular shows--mostly on broadcast TV--have the highest DVR playback viewership. Overall, on average, DVR playback of all network shows actually adds to the current programming ratings by about 4 percent, he says.

In a Friday morning presentation at New York investment banker Bear Stearns, Poltrack said ratings of commercials on broadcast TV are 95 percent of their associated program ratings. (They are about 90 percent for cable shows). The drop of 5 percent and the growth of the DVR 4 by percent "means we are essentially flat," said Poltrack. The 5 percent commercial ratings discount to program ratings has stayed constant over the next three years. That ratio is expected to continue.

But DVR playback viewing will continue to grow. That would mean higher actual commercial ratings for the networks to sell. The networks are expected to move to a commercial rating currency system for advertisers next year.

CBS estimates that the universe of DVR users will grow 20 percent next year from the current 9 percent number. Poltrack figures that could add 8 percent to 10 percent of a program's overall ratings.

Poltrack's presentation was virtually the same one he gave in July at the Television Critics Association meaning--where he came to the conclusion that DVR viewing adds viewers, that DVR fast forwarding was less than first assumed, and that broadcast shows retain better commercial ratings than cable shows.

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