Heather Coghill has been a fan of viewership data for years. And now, with the results of a new television insights study based on Comcast's footprint, the company's senior director, audience insights, has data insights to discern both national and local market trends.
But in a media market that offers a choice of many television performance reports, why release another one now? "When we first analyzed our viewership data, we saw that it was uncovering new insights, which we publicized internally," Coghill explained. "We shared those insights with our clients. Now, we want to release the results to a wider audience." Indeed, the insights gleaned from the viewership data dispels many myths regarding consumer preferences and gives greater clarity to both advertisers and programmers on consumer behaviors.
The report culls insights from viewership across more than 17 million Comcast households across 65 markets. This is "based on approximately nine billion hours of viewing data captured in Q1 2019. To put that number in perspective, it would take over 100,000 years to watch one billion hours of content," Coghill said.
All of this data is managed by an analytics team. "We have data scientists and people who are used to working with big data and they cultivated it for us."
For Coghill, time spent per day is an important metric that the study surfaced. "The press reports that TV is dying, but in fact, people are spending a lot of time with TV daily — over six hours — and it was up year over year." The data shows that "TV is as strong as ever," she said. It's also evolving.
A New Television Landscape
"TV viewing has changed," Coghill stated. "It's not just about watching the four broadcast networks in primetime anymore. We found that 68 percent of time spent with linear TV is spent outside of primetime. The sheer number of networks that households are watching total over 34 per month. And the networks vary by household, with cable networks accounting for 65 percent of all viewing."
The number of networks viewed per month surprised Coghill and is higher than other analyses that are based on much smaller samples. "If you just took the most-watched network across all of our households, it is 308 different networks," she added, which means that "it's getting harder and harder for advertisers to reach audiences at scale." For Coghill, all of this speaks to the degree of fragmentation, "which we knew to be true, but I was surprised as to how much fragmentation there actually is."
The report found that primetime is not necessarily the highest viewing daypart, Sunday is not necessarily the highest viewing day of the week, and the share of live and time-shifted viewing remained constant throughout the week. These insights hold great implications for programmers, schedulers, marketers, and advertisers.
According to the report results, there was a significant uptick in viewing 1Q18 to 1Q19 with viewing on cable networks and video on demand (VOD) driving a large part of this growth. Notably, VOD viewership in Comcast's footprint has doubled since 2016.
Local Market Insights
"The data insights become especially valuable when you look at the local-market level, especially when you get into niche audience segments" because of the ample sample size that the Comcast data offers, Coghill pointed out. "We can look across tens of thousands of households in many markets."
Coghill found that there were fairly consistent viewing patterns across markets; for example, the number of networks watched on a market-by-market level ranged from 30 to 37 and the amount of time viewing outside of prime ranged from 66 percent to 70 percent.
In comparing year-to-year trends, Coghill explained that, "while the big-picture trends remain consistent across markets, there are definitely some nuances — households in Pittsburgh spend six hours, 27 minutes with live linear television daily, while households in Salt Lake City spend four hours, 41 minutes with live linear television daily. Households in Sacramento spend one hour, eight minutes with time-shifted viewing daily (DVR/VOD), while households in Miami only spend 35 minutes a day. When we get into the network-level viewing, these differences become even more apparent."
With all of this available viewership data, there will be added analyses in future reports. "We are going to take a deeper look at viewing by market and by audience segments in an upcoming edition," Coghill shared, "and these reports will come out quarterly going forward."
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