What’s really happening with TV viewing? People are watching great programs over 28 days.

A lot has been happening at Rentrak lately, but I wanted to take time to discuss an important subject.

The media and marketing trade press has been commenting recently on the decline in TV viewing, primarily based on sample-based data. One thing that has been missing in this conversation, I believe, is the element of time, e.g. viewing beyond three or even seven days, as well as viewing across multiple platforms. And what Rentrak is showing.

Rentrak has a way to look at what is happening in terms of time and key TV platforms. With our Multiscreen Essentials® (MSE) system, I could look at 33 common networks (see the list at the end of the blog), across third quarter 2013 and third quarter 2014. This service reports episode-level viewing for programs that were common across live TV, DVR playback for up to 15 days, and Video on Demand (VOD) viewing for up to 28 days. In both quarters, the number of episodes reported on was virtually identical (66.9 thousand vs. 67.5 thousand). A user can get episode-level detail—something that only Rentrak’s massive and passive database can provide.

The bottom line was that, for these shows (virtually all of which were primetime episodes), the total viewing was virtually unchanged. The chart below shows that the sum of the average household audiences was approximately 45 million for both years’ respective quarters.

Bruce Goerlich Blog Chart

Looking at the same data on a percent change basis year-to-year shows the same picture, but indicates the shift in viewership. Live is down, but the combination of DVR and VOD after three days is up, balancing out the total audience level.

Bruce Goerlich Blog Chart

Finally, it is clear that time-shifted TV viewers as well as DVR and VOD audiences, while still the minority, are growing as a percent of the total. The chart below, which demonstrates the share of viewership, shows that live viewing has dropped three percent from 2013 to 2014.

Bruce Goerlich Blog Chart

So, while MSE does not have all TV shows and networks in Prime, it is clear that consumers, when given the opportunity, will find their favorite shows and watch them. To say that ad-supported TV is declining without looking at viewership across time and major platforms misses the reality of America’s continued love affair with the tube.

List of Networks in MSE Report

ABC Family Channel
Adult Swim
American Movie Classics
BBC America
BET: Black Entertainment Television
Cartoon Network
CMT: Country Music Television
Comedy Central
E! – Entertainment Television
FX Network
MTV: Music Television
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Wild
Spike TV
TBS: Turner Broadcasting System
TNT: Turner Network Television
TV Land
Women’s Entertainment Network

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


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