Primetime TV Viewing Habits Shift, But Ad Perceptions Are Constant

October 17, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Media & Entertainment | Television | Youth & Gen X

Recent research from Nielsen has shown that DVR usage represents a growing chunk of TV time, and a new study [download page] from GfK appears to confirm that this is the case for the primetime viewing habits of 18-49-year-olds. Among the 56% of respondents who reported using a TV set “yesterday” during the 8-9PM hour, 26% said they spent that time watching a recorded program. That’s up from 16% in 2008. At the same time, the percentage saying they watched a live network program has dropped from 83% to 64% in that time period.

Ratings figures bear this trend out. A recent TVB study, along with a New York Times analysis, found that factoring in time-shifting significantly widens broadcast ratings. And new figures from Nielsen (as reported by Media Life Magazine) reveal that during the first 2 weeks of this season, the Big Five networks saw an average 30% boost in 18-49 ratings when figuring in live-plus-seven-day viewership.

Gen Y Reports Biggest Change in Habits

Details from GfK’s “Primetime TV 2004-2012” indicate that Gen Y have undergone the biggest shift in primetime TV viewing habits over the past 4 years. Whereas in 2008, 82% spent the first hour of primetime watching a program live, this year just 57% reported doing so. Instead, 28% were watching a recorded program, and another 12% were watching a program or movie using a streaming video.

Indeed, Gen Y respondents were more likely than Gen X viewers to report spending that hour streaming video or playing videogames.

Primetime TV Ad Perceptions Mostly Constant Over Time

Although viewing habits have changed, TV viewers report similar attitudes towards primetime TV ads. This year, 69% feel there are more ads in primetime than in the previous year or two. That figure is unchanged from 2008, and down from 75% in 2004.

Also this year, 63% believe that the cost of primetime ads results in higher prices for things they buy (this is also unchanged from 2008). Despite those negative perceptions, 45% believe primetime ads are generally more interesting than other times (43% in 2008), and 40% believe that primetime ads help them become aware of new products better (up from 35% in 2008).

Still, only 35% believe that primetime ads are more relevant than ads shown at other times, and that’s down from 43% in 2008. Also, only one-third feel that companies with primetime ads have greater commitment to quality, and slightly fewer pay more attention to ads in primetime than other times. Those figures haven’t moved much from 4 years ago.

Other Findings:

  • The percentage of respondents who reported using a TV set during the first hour or primetime has remained fairly steady throughout the years. This year’s 56% compares to 59% in 2008 and 58% in 2004.
  • Among respondents who did not use a TV set during the first hour of primetime, the proportion using the internet as a substitute has increased from 7% in 2008 to 15% this year. Other activities seeing more take-up this year include playing with kids and eating or snacking, while less respondents report working or doing chores during that hour.

About the Data:

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