Internet-Connected Devices Up, TV Viewing Down, Ad Loads Stable - Pivotal Research

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We have analyzed trends associated with the use of television alongside commercial share trends for national media owners in the United States through the end of the calendar month of May 2017 (covering the period running from May 1 to May 31 rather than the broadcast month, which ran from May 1 to May 28 this year). Complete data including time-shifted viewing and commercial impression data for this period became available from Nielsen on Monday.

Notable observations for the calendar month of May include the following:

  • Total use of television as we define it across all sources of content inputs was down again, by -6.2% on a total day basis for adults 18-49 during May, although only down by -2.8% among all households. National TV commercial impressions delivered among adults 18-49 fell -9.2% in May 2017 vs. May 2016 on a total-day basis.
  • Consumption via internet-connected devices, including Roku, Apple TV and Google's Chromecast rose by +51% year-over-year to account for 10.8% of total TV use among adults 18-49 on a total day basis vs. 6.8% in May 2016 and 3.8% in May 2015.
  • National commercial loads which qualified for C3/C7 ratings (which exclude unencoded or otherwise non-qualifying activity in digital environments) across the industry were stable at 10.9 minutes per hour across all Nielsen-tracked programming during May 2017 vs. May 2016.
  • Viacom produced the largest share of C3-qualifying commercial impressions during May with a 15.8% adults 18-49 share among national media owners. News networks Fox News, MSNBC and CNN were among the leading individual networks during the quarter

Overall, the industry-level results are negative for ad-supported national TV as a medium. Total day and prime time viewing of traditional TV programming among adults 18-49 fell by double digits again, while internet-connected-device-based viewing – most of which is not ad-supported – rose by around 50% year-over-year. Viewing of premium video on PCs, tablets and mobile phones are undoubtedly accounting for some of these declines (and reported viewing might even grow if related data were included in standard measures of viewership). However, it doesn't seem likely that this data will be included in any comprehensive industry-wide total audience metric any time soon, aside from individual networks such as CBS supporting Nielsen's related initiative. We continue to believe in our maxim that television is the worst form of advertising except all those others which have been tried, at least for those advertisers focused on awareness-based media goals, and budgets are generally unaffected by changes in ratings in the short-term. Unfortunately, sentiment towards the medium worsens as commonly reported or relied-upon measures such as adults 18-49 fall, especially by the significant levels observed recently. Negative sentiment ultimately leads to advertisers' efforts to explore and encourage the use of alternative media vehicles, or otherwise establish marketing goals that are not necessarily awareness-driven.

Additional commentary and data covering share data for different types of TV consumption and commercial viewing shares for different network groups are included in the remainder of this note.


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