Starcom Leads Where Nielsen Will Not
Yesterday, Nielsen announced the launch of their DVR rating system which will measure programming (but not advertising) viewership that has been "TiVoed." It's a welcome step but one that does not go far enough according to some. MediaCom SVP Tony Jarvis says, because of DVR's ad-skipping abilities, this data will be irrelevant if the system does not measure whether or not commercials are viewed.
Starcom SVP Research Director Kate Lynch has first hand knowledge of DVR viewership habits having conducted primary research on the device. Her research found 54 percent of TiVo users skip ads and as many as 77 percent do so when TiVo are used for playback or recorded shows versus using it to watch "live" TV. The research also found that most ad-skipping activity occurs on highly rated (and most costly to advertisers) shows such as "ER" and "Friends'." Because of a DVR's ability to control viewership over "regular" television viewership, it would seem critical to measure how the device is used to view commercials if the data where to be of any use to advertisers. Because, for the foreseeable furture, Nielsen will not provides this data, Lynch will continue to research this topic for her clients.
The issue really boils down to measurement of commercial viewership. The fact that people actually watch programming that contains commercials is irrelevant to an advertiser. All that matters to the business of advertising is who saw the commercial (and, ideally, what they did after seeint it). That fact that CSI is the number one show is irrelevant. We don't need a "top twenty" show list each week, we need a "top twenty" commercial listing. Of course a model such as this would have devastating affects since it would be revealed that most people, in fact, don't watch commercials which would cause ad rates to plummet and broadcast television programming to suffer with it. This leaves the television industry with a big question. Do we really want to know how many people are not watching the commercials?