Americans watch more video than ever before, says Nielsen

November 25, 2008

This is one of the predictions of OmniVideo — with more ways to watch video, people will end up watching more. I have gone on record saying that the average adult will watch five hours of video a day in 2012, a 25% over the four hours people watch today.

It turns out my prediction may come true sooner than that, especially when you consider this piece today from Meg James at the LA Times. In it, Nielsen reveals that in the third quarter of 2008, the average adult watched 4.5 hours of TV a day. Now, admittedly, this was the quarter in which the Olympics happened, and yes, it was the run up to an unprecedented election, so TV viewing naturally rose higher than it would have been otherwise. But we should expect that once the dust from the election settles, TV viewing won’t revert to 4 hours a day, but will likely stay closer to 4.25 hours, continuing its climb to a stable 5 hours a day by 2012. In other words, I stand by my prediction, and am pleased to see that there’s already evidence that we’re willing to watch more than the record levels we already watch.

This is significantly more than we watched a decade ago. Given that the average TV home hase more than two people in it, the typical home has a television on for 8 hours and 18 minutes a day, up from 7 hours and 15 minutes a decade ago. This will only rise as people have more DVRs and more Internet-connected devices like the Netflix Player by Roku which give us more control over our viewing habits.

Yes, we are addicted to video and I’ll be measuring our addiction over the coming weeks with some blog posts about addiction. Get ready to face your demons. Or not — one of my hypotheses is that increased video viewing is not actually pathological. Sure, a few addicts will go overboard, but most of us are getting real value from video: we’re observing social norms, collecting news, receiving physiological stimulation, emotional expression, relaxation and distraction. We need these things. 

What do you get out of video?

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Google uses brain science to prove overlay ads work

October 27, 2008

Although this study was released last week in hopes of bolstering the case for video overlay ads, it actually comes across as a confession to the market: CPMs on overlay ads are not as good as Google/YouTube wants them to be. Now I’m not poking fun, because that’s generally the case with a new form of online advertising, especially one that’s competing with TV-like 30-second spots running on Hulu.com, which advertisers understand and are ready to spend big bucks on. But overlay ads are not popluar with advertisers yet. 

Google’s solution to this dilemma was to work with NeuroFocus, a recently acquired part of the Nielsen family, to measure how people respond to overlay advertising at the deepest level possible: in the brain. Or in the trail the brain leaves behind, namely the peripheral nervous system. It’s a topic I’m way into, but I’ll spare you the nerdy details. This is similar to work Innerscope Research is doing, which I blogged about before

If this is all too spacey for you, you better get used to it. You’re going to see a lot more of this going on as advertisers and content providers want to show that they are engaging people. Funny how we used to trust Nielsen audience numbers for that, and were comfortable assuming the rest. Not anymore.

The science is actually solid, in case you doubt that. It’s just not very scalable because each person involved has to be hooked up to a machine, so it will likely remain specialized and custom (don’t expect any NeuroFocus nightly ratings anytime soon). Innerscope reduces that burden a little bit with vests that make measurements relatively unobtrusive and communicate results wirelessly. But that still means there’s a cap on the likely number of participants that can be in a study.

What do you think about measuring the nervous system for engagement? Would you wire yourself up for a study like this? Have you?


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).