Viewing down, ad rates up. Go figure.

Yesterday, we had a report from Nielsen that the drop in television usage by consumers was real and not some statistical anomaly. In an admirable bit of fancy footwork, Nielsen said that DVRs “in and of themselves” weren’t a contributing factor, but that the presence of a DVR in the home reduced viewing. Huh?

The biggest losses in tuning appear to be coming from the homes that tuned the most last year…Some homes are tuning relatively more this year, these are generally the lowest tuning homes in the panel; the heavy tuners who acquire DVRs tend to tune less, more than offsetting these increases, resulting in overall declines.”

Gotta love that spin.

Today, we hear of new research from IBM that also shows TV viewing in decline. This is damning stuff:

Saul Berman, IBM Media & Entertainment Strategy and Change practice leader, said, “The Internet is becoming consumers’ primary entertainment source. The TV is increasingly taking a back seat to the cell phone and the personal computer among consumers age 18 to 34. Just as the ‘Kool Kids’ and ‘Gadgetiers’(1) have replaced traditional land-lines with mobile communications, cable and satellite TV subscriptions risk a similar fate of being replaced as the primary source of content access.”

The data is part of IBM’s upcoming “the end of advertising as we know it” study, something we’re eagerly anticipating.

To effectively respond to this power shift, IBM sees advertising agencies going beyond traditional creative roles to become brokers of consumer insights; cable companies evolving to home media portals; and broadcasters and publishers racing toward new media formats. Marketers in turn are being forced to experiment and make advertising more compelling, or risk being ignored.

There are well-informed eyeballs studying all of this on behalf of the advertising community, but the behavior of advertisers themselves is contrary to the data. This troubles me with regards to broadcasters, because it effectively shields them from the truth.

For example, there’s this headline from a Wayne Friedman piece in MediaDailyNews: “Scatter Market Sizzles, Network Ad Rates Rise Double-Digits Over Upfront.” Rich Goldfarb, senior vice president of media sales for the National Geographic Channel told Friedman, “Things are very strong; business is excellent.” The article references cable networks, the niche markets of television, but you have to wonder how all of this is occurring in a time of decreased viewing.

Of course, I also wondered why people would pay for bottled water.


  1. steve karp at publishing 2.0 nails it.…..agencys make more $$ when they place traditional buys.….even if traditional viewing is down. traditional folks want things to stay the same.


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