Nielsen: Time-shifted TV viewing begins to affect ratings

Michelle Clancy | 15-01-2013

Time-shifted television viewing is starting to have an effect on ratings as more consumers opt to watch their favourite shows on-demand, sometimes more than a week after their initial airing.

While the vast majority of TV shows are viewed within the first seven days of broadcast, a handful of programmes science fiction in particular get a sizeable audience in days eight through 29, according to the latest Nielsen Cross-Platform Report.

In terms of mainstream TV, the top ten shows in broadcast and cable's 'Beyond 7' figures reveal that just over 5% of viewing happens within this time period enough to affect ratings. In fact, the study found that some of the top shows are adding up to an entire rating point in this expanded period.

"As an industry, we observe continuing changes in consumer media consumption and device ownership, leaving us with the question: just how many hours are in a day?" said Dounia Turrill, cross-platform practice lead at Nielsen. "With time- and place-based shifted viewing, we have the power to bend time and space to our will. Yet, if we can truly manipulate screen time, how exactly are we doing it? Mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, create portability that allows contact with content and entertainment at home or on-the-go, while digital video recorders (DVRs) and expanded video-on-demand (VOD) offerings allow us to meet the needs of our busy lives."

The ramifications are myriad. For example, does this change the concept of appointment viewing? Traditionally, appointment viewing by definition required viewing to occur at a specific time and place live sports is the best example of this type of viewing. Turril argues that this is changing.

"What if appointment viewing now means both watching when you want and time-shifting when you want?" she said. "For years, the notion of marathon or binge viewing, and the amount and value of viewing behaviour beyond the seven-day period has been widely debated. While currently the vast majority of commercial deals are transacted on a commercial +3 days of viewing basis, additional viewing of both the programme and the commercial occurs."

She added: "Each piece of the puzzle confirms that the consumer's thirst for content, entertainment and information continues to grow."

And grow it does: Americans spent more than 34 hours per week in front of a TV set in the third quarter of 2012. That means traditional TV viewing in the living room was up 78 minutes from the previous quarter. That figure includes live and time-shifted content, via the set-top box (STB), DVD players or use their game consoles. Americans also spent close to five hours a week on a computer screen, using the Internet and watching video content.