Jay Leno’s audience at NBC has fallen sharply in the past year since he moved to the 10 p.m. slot. While this would seem good news for his rivals, a few numbers should strike fear into other TV networks’ hearts:
– Leno is down 1.8 ratings points (that is, 1.8% of all U.S. television households have stopped watching Leno).
– DVR use in the same hour is up 1.4 ratings points.
Hmm. What those numbers mean is a population the size of Phoenix or Philadelphia has stopped watching NBC at night, and instead replaced it with Digital Video Recorders. David Poltrack, CBS’ chief research executive, told the AP that the DVR trend was “a little bit higher than we thought” — a result of the one-third of all U.S. homes with TiVo-style devices learning to catch up on shows they missed. Since Leno appears to be boring people, consumers are using the 10-11 p.m. window before bedtime to play back better stuff. Will they use DVRs to skip commercials, too?
Just wait until the web gets in the basement
DVR use hasn’t taken off yet; they’re more of a ticking bomb for advertisers sitting in consumers’ basements. Nielsen reported this spring that U.S. consumers still watch only 15 minutes of DVR-recorded television a day, vs. 5 hours and 9 minutes of the live thing. But Leno’s slide shows how fast consumers can change their behavior, and they soon will have even more temptation to avoid broadcast networks. TV manufacturers are beginning to sell flat-panel sets with internet access, and 48% of consumers report they would consider purchasing one in the next 12 months. When the web marries TV, a million alternatives to Jay Leno will be just a click away.
Image: Roo Reynolds
This summer while guest posting over at Brandflakes for Breakfast we riffed on Robert Sommer’s 1969 theory of personal space. One of his key concepts was humans have three fields for receiving communication – intimate, near your face or ears; personal, about an arm’s length away; and social, inbound from about 10 feet. Now if you think about the communication devices in your life – mobile phones, laptop computers, and big-screen TVs – they fit nicely into each range. People have a need for each level of communication, likely embedded in our genes from ancestors who whispered secrets, talked face to face, or entertained from the campfire.
This is worth noting as some, like Bob Garfield, predict the end of advertising. Computer banner ads may be replacing newsprint in the personal space, but consumers still watch more than 5 hours of live television a day in the social space. Mobile may be ascendant in the intimate space, but the ads there don’t work well due to limited inventory and consumer modality. The Chikita network recently tracked 93 million impressions and found cell phone ads had a click-through rate only half that of the already horrific banner ad CTRs (0.48% vs. 0.83%). The sexy iPhone, with arguably the best screen for mobile web browsing, had the worst CTRs of all — 0.30%. But so what? Advertising never fit well into lovers’ whispering messages, either.
Campfires live on
The point is we all have a need to be passive occasionally, and as we allow cable television to wash over us, there remain plenty of slots for paid advertising. DVRs are nibbling away at this, but beware stats that tell you 1 in 4 homes have them, because they overstate commercial skipping. Nielsen reports consumers only watch DVR-recorded programming, on average, about 15 minutes per day. The total time spent viewing commercials or paid sponsorships from various screens? Sixty-one minutes. And we keep improving the entertainment tools for our social space; next up, 3-D television is coming to a basement near you soon.
Advertising is alive and well, especially in the social space of inbound entertainment. We’ll riff more on this in an upcoming ad column.