As the NFL draft approaches, I thought I'd add my own two cents to the discussion of football ratings. Despite some ratings declines this past season, NFL football remains by far the highest-rated sport on television. While virtually everything on television declines almost every year, simply as a result of ever-expanding viewing options, when NFL ratings slip it seems to cause undue panic in many quarters.
Nielsen just released its quarterly "Total Audience" report, which provides an overview of the television landscape. The headlines that accompany these reports are often misleading, and sometimes simply misinterpret the data. I looked at the last three Q4 reports to get an idea of what's really going on.
I've long complained about misleading headlines in stories about media and television viewing. Headlines scream about how traditional TV is on the decline, while other screens are on the rise by leaps and bounds. It's not until you read the actual stories that you realize that, (in many of them) either the research is dubious or has been misinterpreted. Other screens are indeed on the rise, but traditional TV is still doing just fine, and remains dominant among virtually every age group. While annoying to those of us who analyze what's really going on in the industry, it doesn't matter ...
Over the holidays, I was at my in-laws, and we started discussing various TV shows, recommending different series to one another. I started realizing most of the shows I recommended were on Netflix. Could I actually be watching more Netflix than any traditional network? It sure didn't seem that way.
Where to find the feistiest woman on the small screen.
I often see data that shows DVR usage is not that significant across the entire day, accounting for less than 10% of total rating points. During prime time, however, it is massive, particularly for original scripted series. Consider that more than 40% of adults 18-49 or 25-54 still do not own a DVR. Despite this, the average original scripted series (on both broadcast and cable) has half its total U.S. audience through DVR playback. That means, on average, more than 80% of viewing of original scripted series among DVR owners is time-shifted.
YouTube TV seems most geared to the two most recent media generations. The Multi-Platform Generation (1996-2010) grew up with high-speed Internet, DVRs, on demand, video streaming, smartphones, social media, multimedia devices, and original scripted series no longer being exclusive to broadcast television. The Mobile Generation (born after 2010) will grow up watching what they want, when they want, and where they want it. This generation makes little distinction between broadcast, cable, SVOD, or OTT. Content means more than distribution source or screen.
Riffs on the following headlines: The Oscars Telecast Still Needs Fixing; Broadcast Networks Need to Cross-Promote New Series; Should CBS All Access be Programmed Like Netflix?
The Academy Awards air this Sunday. I've watched them every year since I was a kid, and every year I look forward to it. But every year I am bored for three-plus hours, and every year I promise myself that next year I'll tune in after 11 p.m. and just see who wins the top awards. Some relatively simple changes, however, could revitalize the show and make it more viewer- (and advertiser-) friendly -- and perhaps reverse the trend that saw its median viewer age rise from 47 to 55+ over the past 10 years.
My 17-year old son recently told me that many of his friends don't watch anything on traditional TV anymore, and many do not have DVRs. They watch TV almost exclusively on Netflix or Hulu, and are more than happy to wait for shows they want to see. This trend doesn't have much impact on reported TV ratings for adult demos, since their households still use traditional television, but it does have implications for the future. Will those viewing habits continue when kids get older, own their own homes, and start their own families? Who knows?