Are Viewers Enjoying TV Less?

May 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

If the upfront presentations to advertisers were a celebration of television’s future—at least as far as next year—then the result of a recent survey could puncture some of the networks’ balloons.
TV executives at the upfront touted this as a golden age of television, with more great shows on the air than ever before and more convenient ways to watch them.
On the other hand, Relay Intelligence’s The American Life survey found that 38 percent of all American adults are enjoying prime-time television less this year than in years past, and nearly half said watching prime time has become less important to them.
“Television ratings have declined and in ways that rightly concern the industry, but ratings alone don’t tell us if the declines are because people are busy doing other things or if their feelings about prime-time television are changing,” said Dr. Richard Luker, chief strategy officer for Relay Worldwide. “These results from the Relay Intelligence survey indicate people feel prime time is less enjoyable and less important to them.”
That perception change comes on top of the television industry’s other headache: the digital video recorder.
The 2006 Yankelovich Monitor study found 45 percent of consumers are very interested in product that enables them to block, skip or opt out of being exposed to marketing and advertising.
According to Yankelovich, 52 percent of those surveyed agreed strongly with the idea that advertising today is out of control. When asked about the statement “I have taken steps to reduce the amount of marketing and advertising I am exposed to,” 33 percent agreed strongly. Baby boomers, who have the wherewithal to afford TiVo and other gadgets, agreed at even higher rates.
Among respondents to the survey, 40 percent said they felt marketing and advertising do not help them be a better shopper.
TiVo and other DVRs are complicating the networks’ economic lives. If viewers use the devices to skip commercials, the medium is less attractive to sponsors. With new ratings systems designed to measure the viewership of commercials coming to a set near you, marketers and advertisers are working together to deliver those proverbial “words from our sponsor” to people during the program, through product placement, product integration and other forms of branded entertainment.
However, before too much gloom sets in, it is important to note that TV is still enormously popular.
According to Yankelovich, watching TV remains near the top of the list of things people say they like to do in their spare time for fun and enjoyment. According to the 2006 survey, 67 percent of people named watching TV, up from 66 percent in 2005.
TV watching ranked just behind playing with kids among parents, and ahead of spending time with family, spending time with friends, listening to music, playing with pets or making love.
So TV still has some things going for it.
Nevertheless, there are grounds for concern—and technology may be at the root of them.
Mr. Luker suggests the prime-time TV ratings decline may be partially explained by time-shifting—enabling people to watch prime-time programs when they wish on other screens.
He said 38 percent of respondents in the survey said they believed they could watch prime-time shows on the Internet without paying an extra fee.
“There is a large percentage of awareness about free prime-time programming online that was created in a short period of time with relatively little promotion,” Mr. Luker said. “At the same time, the research suggests that regardless of where, when or how they access it, people are still enjoying prime-time programs less.”

One Comment

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