Traditional TV Viewing Trends, OTT Still Growing -- Pivotal Research

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We have analyzed trends associated with the use of television alongside commercial share trends for national media owners in the United States through the end of the calendar month of February 2017 (covering the period running from February 1 to February 28 rather than the broadcast month, which ran from January 30 to February 26 this year). Complete data including time-shifted viewing and commercial impression data for this period became available from Nielsen on Monday.

Notable observations for the calendar month of February include the following:

  • Total use of television as we define it across all sources of content inputs was again down by -4.2% on a total day basis for adults 18-49 during February, although only down by -1.9% among all households. Viewing of English-language broadcast networks and ad-supported cable was down by -10.3% for adults 18-49 and down by -4.4% for households, both on a total day basis. National TV commercial impressions delivered among adults 18-49 fell -7.2% on a normalized same-number-of-days-in-the-month basis vs. the leap year 2016. For prime time alone the equivalent figure was -4.8%.
  • Consumption via internet-connected devices, including Roku, Apple TV and Google's Chromecast rose by +56% year-over-year to account for 9.9% of total TV use among adults 18-49 on a total day basis vs. 6.0% in February 2016 and 3.6% in February 2015.
  • National commercial loads which qualified for C3/C7 ratings (which exclude unencoded or otherwise non-qualifying activity in digital environments) across the industry rose to average 10.8 minutes per hour across all Nielsen-tracked programming during February 2017, up from 10.6 minutes per hour in February 2016 and February 2015. Fox, Scripps and Viacom networks reduced ad loads year-over-year, while AMC, CBS, Discovery, Disney and NBCU increased loads.
  • Viacom produced the largest share of C3-qualifying commercial impressions during February with a 15.3% adults 18-49 share among national media owners, vs. 16.1% during the year-ago period. Beyond Fox (which benefitted from the Super Bowl in the month), Discovery posted the most significant gains in commercial inventory, with 6.8% share in February 2017 vs. 5.7% in February 2016. Beyond the declines at CBS (which was hurt by the absence of the Super Bowl this year vs. 2016), the most significant decline was at Viacom where viewing share fell from 16.1% to 15.3% year-over-year.

Total use of TV is important to monitor as it provides investors with a relative sense of the health of the medium. While this data is incomplete in the sense that it excludes viewing of content on non-TV-based devices – and viewing trends would likely look much better if that viewing data were widely measured and syndicated – going beyond network-level ratings and looking at aggregated sources of viewing helps to better analyze the relative importance of the medium to consumers. Commercial share data is important to monitor as networks with more available inventory to sell should generally capture a greater share of advertising budgets.

Additional commentary and data covering share data for different types of TV consumption and commercial viewing shares for different network groups are included in the remainder of this note.


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