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October 15, 2020

Time-Shifted Viewing: Taking a Look at the Big Picture

The September 2020 “NBCUniversal’s One Audience Trends: Cross-Platform Consumption Report,” touted the startling fact that, across its portfolio of properties, a majority of its viewers are no longer watching entertainment content “live.” In fact, NBCU reported that 76% of 18-34s, 69% of 35-49s and 50% of 50+ viewers now time-shift their entertainment viewing, be it through streaming, on demand or digital. Interestingly, the overall trend towards time-shifted viewing has spread viewership throughout the week; while Monday-Thursday viewing still represents the largest proportion of weekly viewing, weekend viewing is up 23% compared to 10 years ago.

While this is newsworthy, it’s doesn’t truly reflect the big picture. When NBC reports that "entertainment" viewing is time-shifted, it is referring to primetime sitcoms, dramas and reality fare, not all TV viewing. The broadcast networks' primetime entertainment shows, collectively, represent less than 10% of all TV viewing and most of the rest is not heavily seen on a delayed basis. In fact, a typical Nielsen report finds that only 10-15 % of all "linear TV" viewing is delayed.

Despite receiving substantially less coverage in the trade press, the NBCU report does acknowledge this. In fact, when looking at digital versus linear viewership for all dayparts, digital represented 21% of “watch time” across all NBCU properties. The disparities were even greater by individual network, as shown below. Finally, the report revealed that 90% of NBCU’s news and sports viewing is still done live—which is a big deal, considering how many advertisers are still drawn to these prestige formats.




Does New Ad Impact Research Reveal That Shorter Messages Are Better?

We reviewed with interest the first findings from the Veritone Uplift Study, which uses AI technology to explore how local radio and TV ads drive traffic to an advertiser’s website. The study ran for 15 months (ending in June 2020) and examined over 250 local ad campaigns that ran on 100+ TV and radio stations in the U.S. and Canada.

In this study, ad impact, or “lift” was defined as the increase in advertiser website traffic that could be attributed to ads running on the measured local TV and radio stations, using Veritone’s AI capabilities. Veritone claimed an average 6.6% lift across the ad campaigns measured. They also found that “live reads” produced an 11.2% lift compared to pre-recorded spots at 5.4%. More granular findings were as follows:


While the scope of the research was narrow (increase in web traffic as a sign of ad impact) and seemed focused more on radio than TV (e.g. the emphasis on live reads, which is typically the purview of radio), the findings are a useful contribution to the study of ad impact.  As we covered exhaustively in our annual, Radio Dimensions, the morning commute is, indeed, radio’s “primetime,” garnering the largest and most attentive audiences. However, when we last examined radio impact in our Radio Dimensions 2013 report, longer length spots were found to generate higher ad recall and purchase intent than shorter spots. Is this shift due to shortened attention spans, as the Veritone study posits, or will future results—including a larger pool of campaigns—bring Veritone’s findings more in line with past ad impact research? We await the results.



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