NEW YORK — Just how bad was October for the broadcast television industry? The “wordsmith of Wall Street,” Pivotal Research Group Senior Research Analyst for Advertising Brian Wieser, and his team at Madison Ave. and East 40th Street took a break from the holiday-themed food carts and Christmas market at Bryant Park to analyze TV use trends alongside commercial share for national media owners.
Pivotal’s conclusion is simple: “This is Us” is the answer to the question of who saw a significant drop in consumption among adults 18-49 during the all-important month.
With Nielsen data becoming available Monday (11/19) for the full calendar month of October, Pivotal went to work.
After crunching the numbers, it was clear that television consumption growth was down slightly against all audiences. But, the fall among adults 18-49 outpaced the total population of viewers.
“Total use of television as we define it across all sources of content inputs was down 0.9% on a total day basis for adults during October,” Wieser says. “However, among the narrower population group of adults 18-49 viewing fell 5.7%.”
What’s the reason for this? It can be pinpointed to one thing: internet-connected devices.
As Pivotal found, TV consumption via internet-connected devices (ICDs), including Roku, Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast, rose by 42% year-over-year among all households, or 31% among adults 18-49.
As such, ICDs account for 15.8% of total TV use among adults 18-49 on a total-day basis and 10.7% among all people.
Advertisers can’t be pleased, as commercial impressions continued to fall.
National TV commercial impressions delivered among adults 18-49 slumped by 11.2% in October 2018 compared to October 2017 on a total-day basis, and by 10.2% for prime time.
These declines were similar to declines observed over the past few months by Pivotal. However, this outcome was aided in part by the inclusion of more newly rated networks in the national ratings data, which causes a boost in the number of programming hours on national TV with measured commercials.
Commercial loads rose once again during the month. National commercial loads which qualified for C3/C7 ratings (which exclude unencoded or otherwise non-qualifying activity in digital environments) across the industry also helped improve the availability of commercial inventory, as national ad loads increased again from 11.0 minutes per hour to 11.1 minutes during the average hour.
Viacom led with the most commercial share, while NBCUniversal networks had the most viewing among all audiences.
In fact, Viacom — the subject of fresh CBS Corp. unification rumors — produced the largest share of C3 commercial impressions during September with a 13.8% adults 18-49 share among national media owners. This mirrors the year-ago month, Wieser says, although it was aided by an increase in average commercial loads from 14.4 minutes per hour to 14.6 minutes per hour.
The most significant gain was seen by ABC and ESPN owner Disney, whose networks’ shares of commercial audiences rose from 10.4% to 11.2% year-over-year, as ad loads rose from an average of 8.0 minutes per hour to 8.3. The most significant decline was for AT&T’s Warner Media, where viewing share fell from 11.3% to 10.6%, although the group was stable in its commercial loads at an average of 8.9 minutes per hour.
On a program viewing live+7-day basis for all viewers, NBCU had the highest share of viewing national TV rated viewing, with 14.8% of the industry’s total in October 2018 vs. 14.3% in October 2017. This was achieved thanks in part to sci-fi drama Manifest, and not popular drama This Is Us, which saw notable viewership declines during the month, according to Nielsen.
Fox gained more program viewing share versus its peers, rising from 12.6% to 13.9%.
Yet, viewing of unrated programming through internet-connected devices and of premium video on PCs, tablets and mobile phones “are undoubtedly accounting” for TV audience declines. It would “probably” bring year-over-year trends closer to flat if related data were included in standard measures of viewership. However, Wieser says, it is unlikely that this data will be included in any comprehensive industry-wide total audience metric any time soon.
Wieser concluded his thoughts on October’s ratings woes by once again trashing TV as an advertising vehicle.
“We continue to believe in our maxim that television is the worst form of advertising except all those others which have been tried, at least for those advertisers focused on awareness-based media goals,” he says.
Budgets are generally unaffected by changes in ratings in the short-term. Unfortunately, Wieser concludes, “sentiment towards the medium worsens as commonly reported or relied-upon measures such as adults 18-49 fall, especially by the significant levels observed recently. Negative sentiment ultimately leads to advertisers’ efforts to explore and encourage the use of alternative media vehicles, or otherwise establish marketing goals that are not necessarily awareness-driven.”