Buffering and the Queue - Alex Petrilli-TiVo

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Our recent press release caused quite a stir, – a big-wooden-spoon type of stir, not a dainty-teaspoon type of stir. Misquoted, misrepresented, misinterpreted; we received inquiries ranging from "On average 62% of your subscribers are watching OTT content at any given time?" to "Are you trying to kill broadcast television… again?!?"

The short answer is no, of course not, you can't kill something twice. Just kidding!!! Seriously, the report simply stated that nearly two thirds of the viewing on web-connected TiVo units is now delayed television or on-demand video via broadband (OTT). Also, among those TiVo subscribers that avail themselves of the OTT services currently accessible through TiVo (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Blockbuster, as well as online partners, podcasts and streaming music from Pandora, Rhapsody, Music Choice and Live 365), live viewership is even lower at 27%. So not only are TiVo + OTT viewers spending most of their TV time watching programming they control, but their incremental OTT viewing is further reducing their live TV viewing (and not just displacing other user-controlled viewing, as one might expect).

All this leads to other questions – chief among those being what constitutes delayed viewing. In TiVo's Stop||Watch ratings service we consider a viewer is watching delayed (time-shifted) viewing when their viewing is delayed from live by more than five seconds, whereas Nielsen considers viewers to be in time-shifted mode after 25 seconds.

The follow-up time-shifting question is whether or not the action was premeditated. In other words, are viewers pausing live TV and watching from the buffer, or did they make a conscious decision to record the program and then watching the program from their queue (My Shows in TiVo lingo)? Luckily, we have the ability to answer that question utilizing our TiVo Stop||Watch data. Can your rating service do that?

Based on our fourth quarter 2011 data of the eight first-run Modern Family episodes on ABC, 16.6% of total viewing was viewed live, 7.9% was buffered and 75.5% was watched from the queue. Contrast that with ABC's American Music Awards (November 20, 2011), where 57.5% was watched live, 19.2% buffered and 23.3% from the queue. Finally, NBC's Sunday Night Football scored 76.7% live, 16.4% buffered and 6.9% queue. How does that match your viewing habits? Let us know.

Below is a ranking of the top five most time-shifted primetime series on broadcast and cable (minimum 5 first-run episodes) during the fourth quarter of 2011. With the exception of Modern Family, these are not the most popular series on television rather the series with (perhaps) the most savvy fan base. These are the TiVo Generation viewers of today: Streaming a YouTube video while Gossip Girl is airing safe in the knowledge they can view it before all their friends start tweeting about it at 8:59pm; checking their Facebook during the latest Project Runway episode secure in the fact they will soon be able to see Tim Gunn's latest attack; or taking the dog for a walk at 9pm on Wednesday confident they will soon be enjoying Phil Dunphy's latest calamity.


Alex Petrilli serves as senior manager of audience research at TiVo. In this role, Alex is responsible for client management and delivery of research projects, and is integral to the product development for TiVo’s revolutionary Stop||Watch ratings service, Alex can be reached at apetrilli@tivo.com.

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