Nielsen releases first commercial minute ratings


The Nielsen Company yesterday began offering the first standardized ratings of television commercials, giving clients a way to measure the impact on commercial viewing of DVRs. Because of the increasing use of DVRs and the ability of consumers to fast-forward through commercials during DVR playback, clients asked Nielsen last year to provide a closer measure of the audience for commercials, not only when programs are viewed live but when played back as well. Nielsen also found that several shows had higher commercial ratings than program ratings when delayed viewing on DVRs was included (especially Live Plus 3). For example, NBC's "The Office" had a live program rating among adults 18-49 of 3.11 for the week of 4/30. Its commercial rating for live plus 3 was 3.36.

Starting 5/31, Nielsen began offering clients its new Average Commercial Minute electronic data file that provides an average rating for the commercial minutes in each program. This data will be available back to 4/30 and will cover Live viewing; Live viewing plus DVR playback on the same day; and Live viewing plus DVR playback for one, two, three and seven days. The file will come out weekly.

Sara Erichson, EVP/Client Services for Nielsen Media Research, mentioned in the press conference yesterday that if you take a :60 minute show, the program ratings that they've been producing for several decades reflect the average of all the minutes of that program and the commercials. Now, in addition, they're taking the minutes within the :60 minutes of the program and averaging just the minutes with commercial content, producing one number for that as well. So now for every program on the file, there is a program rating reflecting all of the minutes, and an average commercial minute rating.

She also mentioned it's important to note that that this average commercial minute ratings file will supplement and complement individual commercial minute ratings data that are already available today in Nielsen's NPOWER software and its All Minute Data File.

Pat McDonough, SVP/Planning Policy & Analysis, shared some data from the first new data file from the first week of May and noted about 17% of 18-49 households in the U.S. currently have DVRs.  Within these households, 58% of broadcast primetime viewing takes place live, with 42% occurring through some form of delayed playback. "Playback adds to the audience fairly quickly, with the Live Plus Same Day number going up to 79%; by one day later, we're up to 88% and so on, until after seven days, we've reported all of the playback."
So 95% of all broadcast prime time viewing within these homes takes place within three days of the live telecast. 

For cable and syndicated prime viewing that occurs via DVR, playback is lower, with 85% of cable and 84% of syndicated programming taking place live, respectively, in DVR households.  Almost all viewing to cable and syndicated programming (Live + Playback) occurs within three days. 

Among all U.S. households, including those without DVRs, 90% of all broadcast primetime viewing among viewers age 18-49 occurs live, meaning that 10% is seen via DVR playback.  Again, the impact of DVRs on viewing cable and syndicated programming is lower, with 97% of all primetime viewing on cable seen live and 98% of all syndicated programming seen live. 

McDonough compared broadcast, cable and syndication programs vs. broadcast commercials viewing and found 40.4% of additional broadcast audience vs. live is included looking at just the same day in DVR households. Looking at broadcast commercials, the audience also grows. For same day, the commercial minute ratings have increased by 18.1% and continues to grow across the week. he commercial audience grows 25% after one day; 29%; 32% and 35%. For cable, a similar trend continues for both program and commercial ratings, but with smaller numbers.

TVBR observation: A couple of interesting pieces of data agencies are interested in and Nielsen is providing to clients include the percentage of viewers fast-forwarding through commercials. It depends upon the programming, when they're playing it back (closer to live=less fast-forwarding). The programs and program genre lists that detail fast forwarding are going to be more and more important in negotiation as DVR use increases.