Time shifting growing rapidly

As if to amplify what’s stated below, new data from Horizon Media, as reported in Media Daily News, reveals that the time shifting of television continues to grow at a rapid pace. “Time shifting” is the sterile industry term for people using DVRs to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it. Throughout the season so far there are 19 shows that witnessed 3 million or more viewers after seven days of time-shifted viewing. By comparison, in 2009, there were 11 shows and in 2008 there were only 3 shows.

NBC’s “The Office” is the most time-shifted program; in terms of its overall percentage, it grabbed 38.8% more viewers — up to seven days of time-shifting. Overall, NBC comedy was also first in 2009, with 37.5% compared to 29.0% in 2008.

In terms of actual time-shifted viewers, ABC’s “Modern Family” had the highest number with 5.465 million; ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” was next at 5.067 million. Both shows topped last year’s number for ABC’s “House,” at 5.038 million.

The big reason is increased DVR penetration. According to Nielsen, it’s now 37%, compared to 32% last year and 27% two years ago. At that rate, it’ll pass the 50% threshold in three years or less. That’s significant, because, as noted above, people skip commercials when they “time-shift” programs. They do it, because they don’t have time for commercials, which are now one-third of prime-time. That’s right. Three hours of programming yields one hour of commercials. And we wonder why we’ve got problems.

It’s only going to get worse as streaming grows in popularity. Last week, I wrote that HBO is considering going direct to consumers, and I heard from an old friend. “HBO, Hulu, Netflix, rabbit ears,” he wrote. “I’m done!”

Of course, the least observed trend is the most powerful, for the very nature of entertaining content is subtly shifting. It’s what J. D. Lasica coined the “personal media revolution” in his 2005 book Darknet: Hollywood’s War on the Digital Generation. You’ve probably never heard of Auto-Tune the News, right? Take five minutes and watch this clever tune featuring Rep. Charlie Rangel’s plight in Congress. This group has a major following, but there are thousands of channels that offer a little something for everybody. We don’t pay attention, because we think this is just junk. It’s not, and this is rising up from the bottom and competing for the precious time of the people formerly known as our audience.

My old friend is done. How about you?

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