TV Trends: Commercial Viewing -8.1%, Total Viewing Likely Closer to Flat -- 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 July 2017 (covering the period running from July 1 to July 31 rather than the broadcast month, which ran from June 26 to July 30 this year). Complete data contained within this report became available from Nielsen on Monday.

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

  • Total use of television as we define it across all sources of content inputs was down again, by -4.3% on a total day basis for adults 18-49 during July, although only down by -2.8% among all households. National TV commercial impressions delivered among adults 18-49 fell -8.1% in June 2017 vs. June 2016 on a total-day basis. National TV viewing on a live + 7 basis among people 2-99 was down by less in July, falling -5.5% year-over-year.
  • Consumption via internet-connected devices, including Roku, Apple TV and Google's Chromecast rose by +43% year-over-year to account for 12.7% of total TV use among adults 18-49 on a total day basis vs. 8.5% in July 2016 and 4.9% in July 2015.
  • National commercial loads which qualified for C3/C7 ratings (which exclude unencoded or otherwise non-qualifying activity in digital environments) across the industry were 10.7 minutes per hour across all Nielsen-tracked programming during July 2017 vs. 10.9 during July 2016.
  • Viacom produced the largest share of C3-qualifying commercial impressions during June with a 17.6% adults 18-49 commercial share among national media owners. Comcast's NBCU produced the highest share of program viewing among people 2-99 on a live+7-day basis with 14.9% of total program viewing.
  • Among network groups, the most significant negative commercial share change was Time Warner (down from 12.9% in July 2016 to 12.1% in July 2017) while the most significant positive share change was at Discovery (up to 7.8% in July 2017 from 7.4% in July 2016)

Overall, the industry-level results are negative for ad-supported national TV as a medium, consistent with observations from other months in 2017. Total day viewing of traditional TV programming among adults 18-49 fell by high single digits (-8.1%) although program viewing among all people on a live+7 basis fared somewhat better (falling by -5.5%). Viewing of unrated programming through internet-connected devices and of premium video on PCs, tablets and mobile phones are undoubtedly accounting for some of these declines, and probably would bring year-over-year trends to flat or possibly positive figures if related data were included in standard measures of viewership. However, it doesn't seem likely that this data will be included in any comprehensive industry-wide total audience metric any time soon.

We continue to believe in our maxim that television is the worst form of advertising except all those others which have been tried, at least for those advertisers focused on awareness-based media goals, and budgets are generally unaffected by changes in ratings in the short-term. Unfortunately, sentiment towards the medium worsens as commonly reported or relied-upon measures such as adults 18-49 fall, especially by the significant levels observed recently. Negative sentiment ultimately leads to advertisers' efforts to explore and encourage the use of alternative media vehicles, or otherwise establish marketing goals that are not necessarily awareness-driven.

Additional commentary and data covering share data for different types of TV consumption and commercial viewing shares for network groups owned by AMC, CBS, Discovery, Disney, Fox, Scripps Time Warner and Viacom, are included in the remainder of this note. Download the PDF below.


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