Getting a Handle on Visiting Viewers

Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

To help ensure that every person in the viewing audience is counted, Nielsen has a place on its People Meter for visitors to enter their age and gender. Visitor viewing is discussed from time to time by planners, who speculate that their ads will be seen by groups of adults at parties or by children when they are visiting friends. Planners must speculate because while visitors are included in all the Nielsen audience estimates, no regular report breaks them out separately.
The following overview is based on FCB’s custom analysis of Nielsen’s voluminous person-by-person database that identifies viewing by all people in the household, including those who have logged in as visitors. It shows the general size and characteristics of the visitor segment as a percent of total viewers by demographic. We at FCB studied viewing of the seven broadcast networks in May 2003 (April 28 to May 25), ending with the Memorial Day weekend.
Overall, visitors make up less than 10 percent of the viewing audience. Across all programs, younger people are more likely to be visitors-especially kids and teens. Visitors represent 9.5 percent of kids 2 to 11 viewers, 8.9 percent of teens and 7.8 percent of men 18 to 34 viewers. They represent only 1.3 percent of adults 55+.
Visitor viewing is heaviest on weekends, beginning on Friday. Again, youth are more likely to be visitors. Penetration is 7 percent to 8 percent Monday to Thursday, climbing on Friday to 12.9 percent of kids 2 to 11 and 11.3 percent of teens. This above-average concentration continues through the weekend. Adult 55+ visitor concentration is essentially flat at 1 percent to 1.5 percent throughout the week. It seems likely that parents bring their kids and teens with them on the weekend when they go to their friends’ homes, where they are logged in as visitors on their friends’ People Meters. Adults under 55 are also more likely to be visitors on the weekends, but the difference is less pronounced than for kids and teens.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, visitor viewing among kids and teens climbed dramatically. On Sunday, May 25, almost 20 percent of teen viewers were visitors. There was no change among 55+ adults, leading to speculation that parents brought their kids and teens with them to celebrate the holiday in their grandparents’ home. A total of 9.3 percent of adult 18 to 34 viewers were visitors that Sunday-higher than in previous weeks but not enough to justify special attention by planners.
There is heavy visiting by kids and teens in the daytime. 26.6 percent of kids 2 to 11 viewers and 22.5 percent of the teens watching TV on weekday mornings are visitors. Visitor viewing climbs again in the late afternoon during the 6 p.m.-to 8-p.m. news/access daypart.
Specials are slightly more likely to attract visitors than regular programs. 5.5 percent of adults 18 to 34 viewers to regular programs were visitors compared with 7.0 percent for specials.
The analysis by program type reveals, surprisingly, that the kids watching kids shows are less likely than average to be visitors. In contrast, 20.9 percent of those few kids watching news and 15.1 percent of kids watching daytime drama are visitors. This suggests that when parents bring their kids to visit, they are logged in as viewers to adult programs they probably would not have chosen if they were left at home.
Although young adults are widely pictured as watching sports with their friends, only 8.6 percent of 18 to 34 sports viewers are visitors-higher than any other program type for that age group, but not dramatically so.
The lack of planner interest in visitor viewing is probably justified by the relatively small percentage of adult visitors in the audience to most programs. The heavier concentration of visitors among kids 2 to 11 and teen viewers to adult programming is interesting, but it should not be a consideration for media planning. This new analysis gives numbers to a frequently discussed topic, freeing planners to develop more targeted and productive media plans.
Roger Baron is senior VP, media research director, FCB/Chicago.