Of the $72 billion spent on TV advertising in the US in 2011, almost one-fifth ($14 billion) was spent on 5 traditional prime time genres – drama, news, reality, sitcom, and sports – says Nielsen [pdf] in an April 2012 report. And among those genres, dramas appear to be the most popular with both viewers and advertisers, garnering 41% of prime time viewership and 35% of ad spend. Sports was the next-most popular genre, at 22% of viewership and 29% of ad spend, followed by reality shows (16% and 17%, respectively).
The finding that sports content generates a significantly higher share of ad spend than viewership may be related to its relatively higher proportion of live content than the other genres, with October 2011 results from an Ad Age survey showing that live TV shows command ad spot premiums
Advertising expenditures on national TV sports are growing, too. A Nielsen report released in January 2012 revealed that national TV sports generated $10.9 billion in advertising expenditure last year overall, representing 6% growth from $10.3 billion the year prior. Data from Nielsen’s latest report indicates that advertisers spent $4.1 billion on prime time sports programming in 2011.
Sports Holds Only Small Share of Time-shifted Content
Somewhat unsurprisingly, viewers appear least likely to time-shift content which is generally better watched live. For example, according to Nielsen’s most recent report, sports held just 8% of time-shifted viewership, compared to its 22% share of prime time viewing. And news accounted for just 4% of time-shifted viewership, compared to 10% of prime time viewership.
By contrast, drama overindexed on time-shifted viewership when compared to its share of prime time viewing (58% vs. 41%), as did the sitcom genre (16% vs. 11%).
Sitcoms and Drama Gain Viewing Share
Sitcoms’ 11.4% share of prime time viewership represented a 15% increase from 9.9% in 2010. Drama’s share of the prime time audience also grew year-over-year, though by a comparatively small 1.4% (from 40.5% to 41.1%). Reality dropped from 16.7% to 15.5% share, while news also declined, from 10.3% to 9.6% share.
Sports held relatively steady, at 22.5%, compared to 22.6% in 2010.
Reality Shows Dominant for Product Placements
Reality shows may trail drama and sports for viewership and ad spend, but they are king of the product placement. The genre accounted for an impressive 58% of all product placements during prime time first run episodes of entertainment programming on the 5 measured broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC). At 4,664 occurrences, though, this was actually a significant drop from 5,776 in 2010. Drama was next with 29% of placements, although its total number also fell, from 2,538 to 2,361.
According to January 2012 analysis from Nielsen, Fox’s “American Idol” was the leading prime time program in terms of product placement activity, with 577 total occurrences during first-run episodes, ahead of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” which totaled 533.
- Travelocity was the most recalled brand in a prime time reality program, with viewers 70% more likely to recall the Travelocity mention during the October 9, 2011 airing of “Amazing Race” on CBS than any other brand or product mention in a reality program.
- 42.9% of time-shifted prime time broadcast programming is played back the same day it was recorded, while 87.6% is played back within 3 days.