How Much TV is Being Time-Shifted?

January 15, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Television

Nielsen-Live-and-Time-Shifted-TV-Viewing-in-Q3-2012-Jan2013Americans are increasingly viewing time-shifted TV, and how that figures into ratings has recently become a more prominent topic of discussion. But how much TV is being watched live, as opposed to later the same day or on another day? Nielsen’s latest cross-platform report [download page], covering Q3 2012, details the breakdown, for broadcast, cable, and syndicated TV, finding that broadcast is most likely to be time-shifted. Specifically, 87.2% of broadcast TV was viewed live, compared to 93.3% for cable and 94.4% for syndication.

How much has that changed over time? Not drastically, it turns out. Back in 2007, Nielsen reported that 90% of all broadcast primetime viewing among television viewers age 18-49 occurred live, meaning that 10% was seen via DVR playback. The live viewing figures were higher for cable (97%) and syndicated programming (98%).

The percentages have changed, but not drastically. But viewers are using their DVRs more because they’re spending longer in front of their TV sets. According to the latest Nielsen study, Americans spent an average of 5 hours and 9 minutes in front of their TVs in Q3 2012, up from 5 hours and 3 minutes in Q3 2008. That translates to roughly 3 hours more per month.

The composition of that time has changed. While Americans watched an average of 4 hours and 26 minutes per day of live TV in Q3 2008, that actually dropped slightly to 4 hours and 24 minutes a day in Q3 2012, despite the overall increase in TV time. Instead, a big increase in time spent is seen with DVR playback, up from 13 minutes a day to 22 minutes per day during that period, or roughly an additional 4.5 hours a month.

Top “Beyond-7” Broadcast Programs Get Significant Audience

The Nielsen report takes a deeper look into the top “beyond-7” time-shifted programs, referring to the top programs that report viewing figures for days 8 through 29. Among the top 10 broadcast programs of this sort, only 63.9% of the audience watched live, while 95.3% had watched within the first 7 days, and the remaining 4.7% watched between days 8 and 29 days after Live.

For cable and syndicated programming, their top time-shifted programs had the following breakdowns:

  • Cable. Live: 74.1%; Within 7 days: 93.9%; and the remaining 6.1% during the 8-29 day period;
  • Syndication. Live: 91.3%; Within 7 days: 99.3%; and the remaining 0.7% during the 8-29 day period.

Finally, the study reveals that primetime is the day-part with the highest percentage of post-live playback and 7-29 day playback (2% broadcast; 1% cable). That’s notable, as the 2007 figures referenced above (90% Live viewing) are for primetime only, suggesting that the switch to time-shifting has been slightly more pronounced than the initial figures suggest.

The top primetime genres for beyond-7 viewing in Q3 2012 were science fiction, general drama, and participation variety, while for the total day those top genres remained the same, but in a different order (participation variety, general drama, and science fiction).


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