People Watch Commercials!

Networks have been saying that they deserved credit for “time-shifted” viewing because people who use DVRs don’t always fast-forward through the commercials. Turns out they were correct.

According to new ratings numbers from Nielsen that take into account consumers who watch recorded programs up to three days after they were aired, about half of DVR owners don’t skip commercials.

From the AP:

“The numbers are exactly what we thought,” said Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC Universal. He said the data for some shows, such as “The Office,” — which he said had higher C3 ratings than traditional ratings — “confirm our concern that we need to get credit for time-shifted viewing.” Other NBC shows, like “Law and Order: SVU,” had lower C3 ratings.

The new system is a compromise between advertisers and broadcasters after years of squabbling over the best way to measure how many people watch commercials.

Last year, Nielsen began measuring DVR viewership over the seven days following the original prime-time telecast. The networks argued that those numbers — which added as many as 2 million viewers for some shows — should be used as the basis for ad rates. But the advertisers countered that many DVR users fast-forward through the ads, so they would be paying for nothing.

It turned out that nearly half of DVR users actually watch commercials, according to data Nielsen released in May. The two sides settled on the three-day period because Nielsen says 95 percent of all DVR viewing for prime-time shows is done within that period.

Brill said the new ratings are only a “baby step” in the direction of measuring actual commercial viewership. That’s because C3 rates the average viewers during all commercial minutes of a program, not for specific commercials. She wants Nielsen to deliver by-the-second ratings.

“Then,” she said, “we’ll know exactly what we’re paying for.”

The Wall Street Journal had some more detailed numbers to throw around, claiming that some consumers didn’t even need a DVR to skip commercials:

“Even without a DVR, 12% of CBS'”60 Minutes” and Fox’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” missed the commercials.”

Between DVR watching and live broadcast, CBS’s Survivor: China brought in 6.51 million viewers, and 5.23 million of them watched the commercials.

Only 5.16 million people watched it live. Where did the rest come from? DVRs. Conclusion: People watch commercials. Why? No clue.

Answer to Vexing Question: Who’s Not Watching Ads [WSJ]
Few Surprises As Nielsen Rates Ads [AP]