For the Syndicated Network Television Association, the mantra this year is “no flipping” channels.
SNTA President Mitch Burg has made it his mission to preach the syndication gospel to advertisers, aided by several published studies of audience viewing habits in recent months that showed strong viewer loyalty and audience retention for syndicated series.
“People are definitely looking at what we’ve been sharing with these studies, and we are changing some minds,” Mr. Burg said. “We started talking about clutter two years ago, and Magna’s independent study has completely validated everything we’ve been sharing.”
Magna Global recently completed a study of Nielsen Media Research data gathered between November and February that covered two sweeps periods as well as the typically low-rated down time during the holiday season.
The results found three points that ad sales executives will be hammering home as they meet with advertisers for the upfront: Syndicated programming has the shortest commercial pods, retains more of its audience during commercials and offers higher ad recall.
The study showed syndication has shorter commercial pod lengths than either cable prime time or network prime time. The average commercial pod length for hourlong network prime-time shows was 3 minutes and 20 seconds, while cable prime shows averaged 3:34 and syndication pulled a 2:43.
Syndication also had the shortest average commercial pod length for half-hour series. Network prime-time series averaged commercial pods of 2 minutes and 45 seconds, while cable earned a 3:01 and syndication averaged a 2:28.
Because of the shorter commercial lengths, the study subsequently found the average syndicated series retained 98 percent of its audience through the commercial breaks, ranking atop the three categories by losing only 2 percent of its viewers. Meanwhile, the broadcast networks lose an average of 7 percent of their audience during commercial breaks and cable loses 10 percent.
“Because our pods are shorter, there is higher recall for commercials that air on our shows,” Mr. Burg said. “Syndication continues to hold its audience through the commercial breaks, and advertisers are saying that this makes sense to them.”
In addition, the study showed syndication’s audience retention during commercials was fairly consistent across genres. Game shows had the strongest retention, holding 99 percent of viewers, talk and court shows retained 98 percent, newsmagazines secured 97 percent and off-net sitcoms and dramas held 96 percent.
“They find it ironic that court shows have some of the highest response levels in the business from their perspective because people relate to them,” said Mr. Burg. “Talk shows continue to score a higher trust and recognition factor. Meanwhile, hosts of the entertainment news programs scored well in setting trends and appealing to the style-conscious. All our different genres provide different attributes of their own, yet each stands out and holds its audience.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Burg also pointed to a Nielsen Media Research TiVo panel that showed 86 percent of syndicated shows are watched live in lieu of DVR recording compared to 41 percent for network prime time. He said that’s another big plus for the syndication industry in its pitch to advertisers who want their spots watched when they are aired.
The study also found that syndication had the fastest DVR playback of any of the categories, with “same day” program audiences reaching 95 percent.
“This is a statistic that should appeal to every advertiser,” he said. “When 80 percent of your audience is watching a show live, they can’t skip a commercial. When 95 percent of them are watching the show on the same day, anybody in retail, automotive, movies and sales in particular should be interested because they don’t want people watching after their event is over.”