As most readers of this column already know, the new primetime television programming season is slated to commence in mid-to-late September 2011. As we wind our way through the next several weeks, the efficacy of recently completed first-run summer season programs will be studied by media practitioners on both sides of the aisle. Analysts will filter through and trend episodic and weekly Nielsen ratings and shares to determine whether these programs will once again go into production and return for a second round of telecasts next summer or whether they will be re-upped for primetime replacement fare in January 2012.
It is interesting to note that in predicting programming successes and failures there are now several streams of program viewing that must be monitored and aggregated to correctly value the actual performance of individual television episodes. Nielsen has been collecting these various data streams for some time now. Earlier this year, the company compiled the Nielsen Cross-Platform Report which provided, among a number of other metrics, a snapshot of where American viewing audiences are actually spending time with TV programming. Following is a summary of platform-specific usage by audience segment.
On a monthly viewing basis, those in Nielsen’s largest audience segment, Persons 2+, spent most of their time (almost 159 hours) watching various forms of programming live over traditional TV. Those who were unable to catch a live telecast did one or more of the following: watched programs on a time-shifted/on-demand basis (close to 11 hours), played-back programing from a DVR (over 26 hours) or caught the TV episodes over the Internet via computer (over 25 hours). Audience members who were not engaged by specific network fare spent over 4 hours watching other video content on the Internet. Still others preferred to watch on the go by viewing videos on their mobile phones (also over 4 hours).
As one might expect, specific age cohorts are likely to play differently on different platforms. With an index of 200, Teens 12-17 are twice as likely to catch programming over their mobile phones than the base of Persons 2+ (index of 100). Adults 18-24 are next in line, reporting approximately 30% more time viewing mobile video than the average Person 2+ (index of 130). On a time-spent basis, Internet video viewing appears to be most popular among Adults 18-24 (171) and Adults 25-34 (151). Watching missed television episodes via the Internet seems to have become the province of those in the following age groups: Adults 25-34 (128), Adults 35-49 (120) and Adults 50-64 (111). Likewise, these same age cohorts are more likely than average to watch time-shifted/on-demand television (136, 135 and 117) or to playback recorded programming via their digital video recorders (120, 116 and 116, respectively). Not surprisingly, the oldest age groups, Adults 50-64 (125) and Adults 65+ (139) spend a disproportionate amount of their time watching live traditional TV.
Once upon a simpler time, it was relatively easy to make predictions about network programming “hits and misses.” Gugelplex TV recognizes that those times are now far behind us. Recently, ABC-TV and Prospect Park Productions announced that they would transfer a long-running daytime serial, “All My Children” to the Web when its network run ended in September. Other producers have been exploring and some have already created long-form content which was developed exclusively for mobile and/or Internet platforms. As we move from the concept of broad-stroke to narrow-stroke programming it’s worthwhile to remember that television as a medium will continue to reinvent itself much the way radio did and continues to do. While audience fragmentation will continue, the need to be entertained on an audio-visual basis will not. Going forward, hits and misses will likely be extracted from a much larger pool of programming candidates. As viewing travels cross-platform what succeeds and what does not may end up varying by platform as well. Welcome to the new TV programming universe!
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