DVRs add 42% more key viewers in some cases

October 16, 2008

The New York Times did a piece this week on Nielsen’s release of adjusting ratings that take into account DVR viewing. I love this last paragraph paraphrasing Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC:

[Alan] called the DVR the “ultimate frenemy” (friend and enemy) because it increases overall viewing and demonstrates that viewers are engaged enough with shows to plan ahead and record them, but “the enemy part is that there is still a lot of commercial avoidance.”

So true, so true. What’s interesting is that he’s now open to the friend part of the Frankenword “frenemy.” Remember, just two years ago, people like Alan thought DVR was the ultimate evil. We still have former clients of Forrester who refuse to engage with us because we had the audacity to (correctly) forecast that DVR use would be near 30% by now. Gee, we’re sorry we hit that nail on the head. We’ll try to be wrong next time. [yeah, you know who you are]

The ratings numbers from Nielsen revealed that hot, upscale shows like House, Fringe, and Heroes, all added an additional chunk of viewers via DVR.

House, for example, added 3.7 million additional viewers. Among 18-49 year olds, Heroes went up 42 percent. That means nearly a third of its viewers in that target age range were watching via DVR.

And let’s not forget the viewing that’s happening online. Remember that? It’s even easier to do than watchingvia  DVR. And in a recession, online viewing seems a lot cheaper than paying for a DVR. For shows like Fringe or Heroes, I could imagine that 50% of all viewing is now happening on-demand, whether via DVR or Internet. Here’s a prediction for you:

  • Online viewing will account for more views than DVR viewing by year-end.

Two factors will drive this. First, more people can and do watch TV shows online than have a DVR. Second, it is less of a hassle — there’s nothing to program, no disk to keep uncluttered with episodes of Suite Life of Zach and Cody (sorry, went on a personal tangent there).

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30 Rock debuts new season on Web

October 16, 2008

 This was noted earlier this week in Mediapost. It appears that flush with the success of all-things-Tina-Fey, NBC is hoping to finally get some attention for brilliant comedy 30 Rock by premiering the new season on NBC.com and Hulu.com a week before it airs live on October 30th.

First, it’s an amazing show and Fey has taken her career to all sorts of new heights with her I’m-normal-but-everyone-else-is-nuts persona. But it’s a show that doesn’t get the ratings it deserves, largely because its popular lead-in, The Office, doesn’t either since a boatload of its viewers watch in via DVR, so there’s no lead-in audience for 30 Rock

Premiering a series online isn’t that new, either. It was common this season and will be the norm in the coming seasons. But it does emphasize how dependent networks are becoming on the Web to cultivate and keep an audience. As long as ratings stay relatively stable, that’s fine, but once people start abandoning linear programming in droves, there will be some network execs who have gone along with it who will shriek.


YouTube joins the online TV game late

October 11, 2008

As widely reported yesterday, Google is now going to add full-length TV shows to YouTube. It’s about time. Finally, we can all watch what we really want: MacGyver. See the pilot episode below. Actually, this episode has been online for a month already, and has amassed a whopping 1,023 views. Let’s give MacGyver the Rodney Dangerfield award for Least Respect For An Online TV Debut.

(Note about above video window: this is the pilot episode of MacGyver. But YouTube embedding doesn’t seem to work for full-length episodes so you may get a message saying the video is no longer available, even though it is. Hmmm, YouTube is playing a little catch-up to Hulu.com.)

This is one of those full-circle moments. Remember when the press erroneously labeled Hulu.com (before it was even called Hulu.com) a YouTube killer? This article I dug up from Reuters from March 2007 stopped short of saying “killer” but definitely pitched them as rivals. I went on record in that article disputing that idea:

“It’s not actually going to take away from YouTube because it’s as much about the social experience as the video. So YouTube is going to be fine,” said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.

I stand by that statement. Clearly, at 5 billion videos a month, YouTube is doing just fine, responsible for 44% of all videos streamed in the US (according to that NYT article above, but probably closer to 25% of minutes, given the short nature of its clips).

But with the tremendous growth of Hulu.com, ABC.com, and the rest, it’s no surprise YouTube would finally give in and put full episodes on; in higher quality than normal YouTube fare; and with ads before, during, and after (what good are those? as Michael Eisner said on stage last week, “Those aren’t commercials, those are credits”). 

The question I got Friday from a major news outlet was: Can YouTube dominate the online TV space? It’s a valid question but the answer is this: No. 

Certainly not as long as CBS and its properties are the primary TV content featured. It’s not a knock — CBS content can rock — but CBS content is everywhere. You can see it on Joost, you can even come across it on IMDB when searching for “MacGyver” (which I’m sure you do nearly daily).  Oh, yeah, and on CBS.com.

The answer is still no even once other network content shows up there — which I’m sure it will eventually, remember Hulu.com offered itself to YouTube from the beginning, an offer which Google CEO Eric Schmidt smugly declined.

There’s little reason for people already on YouTube to interrupt the site’s social, clip-focused experience to watch a full-length episode. And if you hit the Web knowing you want a particular TV show, you’re as likely to go to its home page as you are to go to YouTube.

I’m not saying YouTube won’t stream millions of TV shows. It will. I’d guess at least 25 million in the month of December, roughly half of what NBC.com or a similar site streams in an average month. But it won’t dominate. So put it this way: YouTube won’t be a Hulu.com killer…

Add your thoughts: will you watch full-length episodes on YouTube? (Other than MacGyver, of course, which we know you’ve already watched there).