The needle finally moves in changing TV viewership habits.

graphDespite the many changes we’ve seen in the way people can consume media today, one thing that has remained pretty consistent has been the dynamics of TV viewership.

Things have taken so long to evolve, to some observers it’s seemed as if TV was effectively immune to all of the changes happening around it.

But now we’re finally seeing some pretty fundamental shifts happening in the way content on TV sets is consumed.  Two new surveys chart what’s changing.

A recently released report from Accenture, which surveyed nearly 25,000 online consumers during the 4th quarter of 2014, notes that viewership of long-form video content (television and movies on a TV screen) is now in decline across all demographic categories – not merely among younger viewers.

The decline amounts to ~11% over the previous year among American viewers.  It’s even bigger (a ~13% decline) when looking at worldwide figures.

Not surprisingly, the drop is less pronounced among viewers aged 55+ (for them it’s closer to a 5% reduction) than with young viewers age 14-17 (a decline in excess of 30%).  But the fact that declines are now occurring across the board is what’s noteworthy.

At the same time, the Accenture survey found that consumers who watch long-form video on connected devices rather than on TVs aren’t all that enamored with the experience:

  • About half find that watching online video isn’t a great experience because of Internet connectivity issues.
  • Approximately 40% complain of too much advertising. 
  • Around one-third encounter problems with video buffering … and an equal portion report problems with audio distortion or dropouts.

More highlights from the Accenture research are available for download here.

time-shifted TV

Another study – this one from Hub Entertainment Research – has found that viewers who have broadband and watch at least five hours of TV per week are actually watching more time-shifted TV than they are watching live broadcasts.

On average, participants in this study reported that ~47% of the TV shows they watch are live and ~53% are time-shifted.

Among younger viewers (age 16-34), time-shifted viewing is even more prevalent (around 60%).

Most time-shifted viewing is still happening through a set top box:  DVRs (~34%) and video-on-demand from a pay TV provider (~19%).

For consumers, being able to watch TV on their own schedule isn’t just more convenient; it has also made back catalogue material more accessible.

Survey respondents noted the following reasons for watching shows at a different time:

  • Can watch when it’s more convenient to do so: ~60% of respondents
  • Can see missed episodes:  ~37%
  • Can skip ads: ~37%
  • Can pause or rewind the program:  ~34%
  • It takes less time to watch the show: ~33%
  • Not available to watch the show during live airing: ~29%
  • Can watch show episodes back-to-back: ~19%

Notice that ad avoidance isn’t at the top of the list.  Nonetheless, for the industry this is a mixed bag.  Time-shifting has clearly put pressure on the business model and how the TV business traditionally makes money – namely, shows watched live, with ads.

Additional details on the Hub Entertainment Research report can be accessed here.

When it comes to advertising … the Super Bowl is supreme.

Super Bowl XLVISuper Bowl ad placements have the reputation of being the most pricey ones on television. And based on an analysis by Kantar Media of Super Bowl ad activity over the past decade, that perception is quite accurate.

According to Kantar’s analysis, over the last ten years the Super Bowl game has generated more than $1.7 billion in network ad sales from more than ~125 companies.

Just five Super Bowl advertisers account for more than one-third of the activity, led by – no surprise here – Anheuser-Busch:

Anheuser-Busch: 10-year advertiser … ~$239 million
 PepsiCo: 10 years … ~$174 million
 General Motors: 8 years … ~$83 million
 Disney: 10 years … ~$74 million
 Coca Cola: 5 years … ~$67 million

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the rule of thumb was that a 30-second ad for the Super Bowl game would set you back one million dollars.

That’s not the case any longer. In fact, the average rate for a :30 ad increased by ~40% over the past decade, reaching $3.1 million in 2011.

[And for 2012, the ad rate is expected to be even higher at $3.5 to $4 million per spot — a double-digit increase.]

At such stratospheric prices, you’d expect only a handful of ads to be longer than 30 seconds. That’s true to a degree; only about one in five of the Super Bowl ads are :60 spots. But compare that to just ~6% of ads on broadcast networks being long-form.

And if it seems as if you’re seeing more advertising during the Super Bowl game than in years past … you’re not hallucinating. Back in 2006, the volume of commercial time for ads during the game was ~44 minutes. That rose to ~46 minutes as of 2011, and will probably continue to creep upward in 2012 and beyond.

Most Super Bowl advertisers are big consumer brands. But Kantar also finds that nearly one-third of Super Bowl advertisers allocate more than 10% of their annual media budgets into the game. Clearly, it’s not only the big Hollywood film studios, car companies or food brands that are shelling out the bucks for the Super Bowl.

Kantar Media also compared advertising volume for the Big Game against the dollar volume of ads placed during other major televised sports events, such as the Baseball World Series and the NCAA Final Four Mens Basketball. In nearly every year, the one-day Super Bowl out-pulled these multi-day sporting events when it comes to raking in the ad dollars.

To sum things up, even in the world of advertising where the only constant is change … some things don’t change all that much.