MediaFile

Nielsen: the past, the present, but not the future of TV

This week, Nielsen announced that its viewership numbers will include the TV shows that get to the living room via Internet-connected TVs rather than through antennas or a cable/sat box. It’s a modest acknowledgement of the cord-trimming trend by which viewers are turning to non-traditional sources for “TV” such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

That’s good news, as far as it goes. But only a thimble’s worth. Nielsen, television’s quantifier of record, isn’t going nearly far enough to keep up with the times. Not accounting for rapidly evolving viewing habits and methods is a greater threat to the veracity of Nielsen’s numbers than age-old criticism of its method of computing them. 

Video consumption from Internet sources may still be just a blip – it’s at 4.2 percent now, though it’s growing rapidly. But consumption on devices that are not TV sets – tablets, smartphones, computers ‑ is also happening, with perhaps an even more rapid rate of growth. A recent study by The Diffusion Group (TDG) predicts that 10 percent of TV watching will be on tablets within four years. Nielsen itself reports that about 40 percent of Americans use a tablet or smartphone as a second screen, while watching TV, at least once a day ‑ and 80 percent at least once a month.

Sales of TV sets are in decline as tablets and smartphones fly off the shelves. The living room war is being won by mobile devices, which aren’t even on Nielsen’s radar.

The crux of Nielsen’s business model is in selecting representative households — Nielsen families — from which to extrapolate viewing patterns. Nielsen families agree to have a special box attached to their TV sets that can record viewing habits. There are only 22,000 of these families, carefully chosen to create a polling sample that represents 114.2 million U.S. households.

Netflix: The New Arch-Frenemy

Albanian Army marching in Tirana's main square (Photo: Reuters)

 

The Albanian Army is coming everyone, watch out!

We’re only into week 1 of big media companies reporting their quarterly earnings and the most prominent name hasn’t been CBS Corp, Time Warner Inc, Comcast Corp, and Viacom — instead it’s all been about Netflix.

Pretty much on each of these companies’ conference calls, the $4 billion company from Los Gatos, California was a key reason for a boon to the bottom line by supplying  ’found money’ by digital licensing of shows that would have been gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in Hollywood. But also on the calls for several of the same companies, Netflix was seen by analysts as a threat to their future. Let’s not forget the four who reported this week have combined market value of over $160 billion.

At CBS on Tuesday, which most people see as a broadcast and billboards advertising company, the first quarter was given a nice bump from its licensing of old CBS shows like”‘Cheers” but also by newer cable shows like Showtime’s “‘Dexter” and “Sleeper Cell”. Here’s the ever ebullient CBS CEO Les Moonves telling analysts on Tuesday how great Netflix and other copycats are:

Oprah’s network off to slow start

DiscoveryCommunications CEO David Zaslav is clearly hoping Winfrey finishes up with her daytime gig next month. That’s when she will turn her attention to the Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN, as it’s called, is a joint venture between Discovery and Oprah that has gotten off to a rocky start.

Even Zaslav acknowledges that viewership isn’t what he had hoped.  Ratings “have been below expectations” and it has been “a slower start” than he had wanted, he said on Discovery’s conference call today. The network has plowed big money into OWN — and has high hopes for it. Zaslav is now looking for results.

“As with any new cable channel, some content is working while other programming is not connected with the audience,” he said.

No Super Bowl blues; expect big TV ratings

colts1The U.S. economy might be weak, but the Super Bowl still scores with consumers.

The CBS broadcast of the National Football League’s championship game on Feb. 7 between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints should draw strong TV ratings, possibly challenging viewer levels not seen since the late 1990s.

“We’re looking at a big rating,” said Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and head of his own sports consulting firm. “The fact that the two conference championships got better than usual ratings usually indicates that there’s a lot of public interest.”

The NFC Championship game between New Orleans and the Minnesota Vikings drew 57.9 million viewers, ranking it as the most watched conference championship game since the 1981 contest between Dallas and San Francisco that featured “The Catch.” It was also the most heavily watched TV program, excluding Super Bowls, since the 1998 “Seinfeld” finale.

Desperately seeking hits: MPG

Are people going to watch more TV because they’ve no money to go out? According to media buying and planning agency MPG — a subsidiary of Havas, the world’s sixth-largest ad firm — the answer is no, unless the TV networks come up with better shows.

“That’s inventory for us, that’s our supply,” MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano told the Reuters Media Summit in New York. “The thing is, there are no hit shows out there on the big networks,” he added. “And if there’s no supply in the marketplace, that just makes it harder and harder for us.”

With the economy seizing up and people seeking more stay-at-home entertainment, this could be the perfect time for the big networks to hook people on to some new shows and boost ratings. That would bring in advertising revenue at a time when many advertisers are scaling back spending.

What you watched on TV last week…

What you — and everyone else –  watched on TV was the election, apparently. More than 71 million Americans tuned in to see the end of the presidential campaign, and coverage on ABC and NBC ranked among the top 10 shows during primetime last week, according to the latest Nielsen numbers.

Election night, combined with Sunday night football, left little room in the top 10 shows for regularly scheduled dramas and comedies. But it should be noted that ABC managed to squeeze in the top two rated dramas among 18 to 49 year-olds, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. ABC and NBC shared honors for the highest ratings among the 18-49 crowd for the week.

Total Viewers (’000)

CBS 11,040

ABC 10,400

NBC 8,900

Fox 5,870

Adults 18-49 (ratings)

ABC 3.2

NBC 3.2

CBS 3.0

Fox 2.3

Week’s Top Shows for Adults 18-49 (network, rating)

Sunday Night Football, NBC, 6.7

Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 6.0

Desperate Housewives, ABC 5.9

SNL Presidential Bash ’08, NBC 5.6

CSI, CBS 5.1

Vote 2008, ABC 4.9

Two and a Half Men, CBS 4.6

Decision ’08, NBC, 4.5

Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, NBC, 4.3

The Office, NBC, 4.3