Reaching the Elusive Light TV Viewer

Jun 23, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Planners frequently ask what the best way is to reach the light viewing quintile.
Every day planners work with TV program ratings, audience composition, the reach/frequency of media plans and so forth. But often planners forget that what is really being talked about is the average person. Planners tend to ignore the widely differing exposure levels that make up the average.
These differences are revealed in the quintile analysis that divides the target into five groups, ranging from the heaviest to the lightest viewers.
The “hot potato” light viewers represent only 20 percent of the population and are concentrated in the upscale demographics. They are important to media plans that must reach this group as well as more generally targeted plans seeking to deliver adequate weight across the entire audience spectrum.
Type 1: People Reached by Specific Media Plan
First it needs to be recognized that there are two kinds of quintile analysis: 1.) exposures to people reached by a specific media plan, and 2.) exposures to people who themselves are light viewers.
This most common type of analysis divides the people who are reached by a media plan into five groups ranging from the lightest to the most heavily exposed. It is calculated with simple arithmetic from the plan’s frequency distribution, but it is only indirectly related to the target’s viewing habits.
Type 2: People Who Are Light Viewers
This type of quintile analysis reflects viewing behavior. The accompanying Chart A is based on Nielsen’s Persons Cume Study (November/ December 2001). Broadcast network audiences combine ABC, CBS and NBC for consistency across all departs.
Respondents in each demographic group were ranked by the number of hours they watch television. Then the sample was divided into equal fifths that provide the base for the five quintile ratings. An index between each quintile rating and the age/sex demographic shows how many quintile gross-ratings-points (GRPs) will be delivered for every 100 conventional points.
For example, the three-network average prime-time program is watched by 7.4 percent of all women age 25 to 54, 11.2 percent of heavy viewers and 2.7 percent of the lightest viewers.
In other words, it delivers 151 heavy-viewer and 36 light-viewer GRPs for every 100 target rating points.
Across demographics (Chart B), the greatest difference is seen in young adult (18 to 34) men and women who get only 15 and 22 points respectively for every 100 demographic points.
Adults age 55+ tend to be heavy viewers, but because this group is more homogenous, the difference between the heaviest older viewers and the demographic average is less than for other age groups.
Although there are differences by demographic, let’s focus here on Women 25 to 54. Prime time delivers the most light viewer points-36 GRPs for every 100 demo points, but it has the highest cost. Daytime is clearly the most skewed daypart, delivering only 9 points to the light viewers and 338 GRPs to the heavy viewers. This is logical-these women earn their place in the heaviest quintile because they are at home watching television in the daytime.
Surprisingly, as seen in Chart C, cable is substantially less selective to light viewers than broadcast prime time. The average of all 51 networks measured by the Cume Study delivers 16 light-viewer points per 100 W25-54 demo points-the same as network morning programs.
There is no easy way to identify individual programs that appeal to light viewers. Nielsen’s standard tools do not give program ratings by quintile.
However NPower’s Quintile and Share of Voice reports show the number of light viewers who are in a program’s total (cumulative) audience. Ranking prime time programs on this basis shows a positive correlation with the demographic rating (r2=.51). In short, programs with the highest rating tend to have the most light viewers.
Summing Up
Reaching light television viewers is tough. No matter how the medium is bought, light viewers are going to get significantly less weight than the average person. High-rated prime-time programs are the best way to reach them, though they will still receive only about one-third as much weight as the demographic average.
To ensure adequate delivery against all population segments, planners should consider adding print, the Internet and other media that skew toward light TV viewers.
Roger Baron is senior VP, media research director, FCB/ Chicago.