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Nielsen blames DVRs for ratings dearth

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Nielsen Media
I've written a couple of features this past month on DVRs and how they are affecting television advertising this year (Hysteria Over DVRs and Commercial Skipping, DVRs Take Center Stage) and now Nielsen is throwing down and blaming DVRs for the across-the-board ratings drop we've seen this year. I think only House and American Idol were the only two shows to gain viewers.

Prompted this month by questions from NBC, Nielsen began an investigation into the factors that could have led to the slide. Nielsen's probe is almost complete, but in the meantime the company has discovered several things.

"DVRs appear to be the largest factor in that," said Pat McDonough, Nielsen senior vp planning policy and analysis.

But there are other factors in Nielsen's early findings, among them the difference between an Olympic year (2006) and a non-Olympic year (2007) as well as a higher number of repeat programs this spring than in previous years.

This is kind of funny because I ran across an article named Endless repeats defeat purpose of satellite television this morning while looking for new news sources, and it's hard not see it so plainly right there in front of your face. There's simply less original programming on the air than in recent years, due mostly to the networks horrible phobia of trying something new only to see it fail, and that's entirely due to impatient advertisers.

You get Fox, currently in the top slot amongst the big four, killing of new series after airing less than six full episodes because of bad ratings. There's no one left that has the guts to stick with a show through its first season to see if it can build an audience, rather than being lucky enough to be born with one.

That bit of news about ratings isn't nearly as funny as this is, though.

More than half of digital video recorder users fast-forwarded through commercials while watching prime-time network fare, according to the first study of how many DVR users actually watch ads.

Advertisers are going to go through the roof when they hear about this one. They are already fighting the networks in an attempt to avoid having to pay for their commercials when people record a show but watch it later. They don't want to pay for that at all.

Among DVR households, viewership of the typical prime-time show increases by 73 percent when people who have watched it within three days on DVR are included. Yet the number of people watching the commercials goes up only 32 percent — meaning more than half the DVR viewers avoided ads.

Nielsen didn't have to do a study, I could have told them that. It's half the reason I own a DVR.

They can debate this stuff until the cows come home, what it means, what they can do about it, and all that. One thing remains clear and in my mind indisputable: the industry model for revenue is tanking and they need to come up with something different, and do it fast. Commercials are already history, and I don't want my favorite shows to go with them.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.