Nielsen: Time-Shifted Viewing Increases Program Popularity

With so many options available to consume video in the home, it is no possible to determine a hit TV show by only counting the audience that watches on the day it airs, according to new data from Nielsen.

Nielsen contends different types of programming hold sway over different types of viewing behavior, from the live, must-see action of a sporting event to the carefully curated dramas sitting on that DVR “shelf” as a viewer waits for the perfect moment in the week to watch it.

When the media industry — be it the critics weaving in viewing metrics to complement their POV to programming decision-makers weighing the ratings—considers defining a hit in measurement terms, it’s crucial that the full viewing audience is considered.

“Anything less would be a short-sighted slight to the content creators operating in a $72 billion advertising gauntlet as well as to the fans who simply might not be able to make the live airing and opt for this delayed viewing,” Nielsen wrote.

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In the first quarter of the year, adults (18+) spent nearly four hours each week watching delayed, or time-shifted, viewing (via VOD or DVR).

Among all genres of programming at the beginning of the last television season (Oct. 1 to Dec. 30, 2018), video consumption up to 35 days after live or same day broadcast, generated a 10% lift in viewing — or an average of 2.7 million more viewers for a particular show.

Among viewers 18-49, time-shifting upped ratings 14%, or 1.1 million viewers, respectively.

This trend becomes more pronounced, however, depending on specific genres of programming and the viewer demo using time-shifted options.

In Q4 2018, delayed viewing helped drive ratings 40% higher for primetime dramas and 65% higher among consumers 18-49. The trends continued for less popular shows, which saw viewership increase 20% through time-shifted access.

“Content owners or those looking to leverage data from research teams to media outlets, have an impetus to take into account the added value that delayed viewing often brings and not discount the full viewing picture,” Nielsen wrote in a post.