Does TV Presently Have A Problem With Its Core Audience?


Brian Wieser, a Senior Analyst at Pivotal Research Group who covers such ad economy-impacted publicly traded companies as CBS Corp., Nielsen and Viacom, has completed his review of TV consumption trends for the calendar month of February 2017.

This included a review of time-shifted viewing and commercial impression data, which Nielsen released March 20.

The key takeaway: Total TV use as Wieser defines it was down. But, it was far more pronounced among adults 18-49 than among all households.

Wieser finds the total use of television “across all sources of content inputs” was down by 1.9% among all households — but down 4.2% on a total-day basis for adults 18-49 — during February.

He then isolated viewing of English-language broadcast networks and ad-supported cable networks. Those results showed much greater erosion: viewing in February was off 4.4% for households on a total-day basis, and down 10.3% for adults 18-49.

Wieser then analyzed national TV commercial impressions delivered among this key advertiser demo. On a normalized “same number of days in the month” basis vs. the leap year February 2016, impressions among adults 18-49 sagged 7.2%. For prime-time alone, the equivalent figure was 4.8%.

Many factors could be impacting broadcast and cable TV. Some programs were on hiatus, including ABC’s “Designated Survivor” and “Dancing With the Stars” and FX’s “The Americans,” and this could have led to fewer overall viewers.

But, that impact could be minimal based on Wieser’s other key finding: Use of an internet-connected device to view video entertainment continues to rise.

Consumption via devices including Roku, Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast rose by 56% year-over-year, to account for 9.9% of total TV use among adults 18-49 on a total day basis. This compares to 6% in February 2016 and 3.6% in February 2015.

It therefore stands to reason that Over-The-Top (OTT) services such as Netflix and Amazon Video are doing more than simply complement broadcast and cable TV networks.

With viewership shifting, national commercial loads that qualified for C3/C7 ratings actually rose slightly, to an average 10.8 minutes per hour across all Nielsen-tracked programming during February 2017. That’s up from 10.6 minutes per hour in February 2016 and February 2015, and live sporting events and awards programs including ABC’s Oscars telecast could have aided the small boost.

Which broadcast and cable TV entities increased their spotloads? AMC, CBS, Discovery, Disney and NBCUniversal. Conversely, Fox, Scripps and Viacom networks reduced their ad loads year-over-year.

But, a third key takeaway shows that C3-qualifying commercial impressions are declining.

Wieser finds that Viacom produced the largest share of such impressions during February with a 15.3% adults 18-49 share among national media owners. This compares to 16.1% during the year-ago period.

Impressions, meanwhile, clearly differ from total viewer ranks: At Viacom its February ’17 viewing share fell to 15.3%, from 16.1% in the year-ago period.

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