News

MOST TV VIEWERS DO NOT LEAVE THE ROOM OR EVEN CHANGE CHANNELS DURING COMMERCIAL BREAKS, PER NEW FINDINGS


Latest Data Uncovered in Council for Research Excellence’s $3.5 Million Video Consumer Mapping Study Refutes More Conventional Wisdom

New York, NY, May 10, 2010 – Contrary to longstanding received wisdom, the large majority of viewers of live television do not leave the room, nor do they change the channel, when the TV program they are watching goes to commercial.

This is according to new, specific findings from the Video Consumer Mapping (VCM) study sponsored by the Council for Research Excellence (CRE), a diverse group of senior research professionals from throughout the media and advertising industries dedicated to advancing the knowledge and practice of audience measurement methodology.

The VCM study, conducted throughout 2008 by researchers from Ball State University and Sequent Partners, was a groundbreaking event in video-audience research. The $3.5 million project was the first ever to involve the in-person, computer-assisted observation of the media consumption habits of 376 adults. All told, the VCM study -- the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted -- generated data covering more than three-quarters of a million minutes or a total of 752 observed days.

Initial, general findings from the VCM study were first announced in March 2009. Among those findings was the observation that most adults are exposed on average to some 73 minutes of live TV commercials or promotions daily. These latest findings, the first from this study specifically exploring consumers’ habits before and during TV commercials and promos, are the initial result of an exhaustive “data-mining” effort by CRE members and outside research professionals commissioned by CRE.

Among the findings:

  • TV advertising and program promotions reach 85% of adults daily; viewers typically see 26 advertising or promotional breaks daily, at an average length of 2 minutes and 46 seconds per break;
  • The frequency of channel-changing and /or changing rooms is very similar in the few minutes before a commercial break, during the commercial break and in the few minutes after the commercial break:
    • According to the study, 11% of viewers change channels during the four minutes of TV programming before the commercial break; only 14% change channels during commercials; and 13% change channels in the four-minute period after programming returns. In other words, 86% of viewers remain with live TV during commercials -- a finding consistent with previously disclosed Nielsen data;
    • A similar pattern emerges with room changes: 19% change rooms in the four minutes before a commercial break; 20% during; and 21% in the four minutes after programming returns.
  • Similarly, viewers do not increase or adjust their “multi-tasking” habits during commercial breaks:
    • Fully 55% of viewers were found to be engaged solely with media – led largely by live TV viewing – during the two minutes of TV programming prior to commercial breaks, with the number actually growing to 56% following onset of a commercial;
    • Multi-tasking was found to accompany about 45% of all media use. Concurrent activities are led by “care of another,” at 12% in the two minutes prior to and during commercial breaks; and “meal preparation,” at 8% in both cases. Some of these activities do not necessarily preclude simultaneous attention being paid to media.

“Do viewers actually pay attention during commercial breaks?” asked Laura Cowan, vice president and media director of RJC Advertising and chairperson of the CRE’s Media Consumption & Engagement (MC&E) Committee. “For years, media professionals have been wrestling with this question – and they’ve been debating the merits of audience data whether they are based on written diaries or on electronic measurement devices that require manual user interaction. This new data, the result of actually ‘embedding’ observers with a statistically significant number of TV viewers, is a major development in terms of learning what people watch and how they watch it.”

“At a time when the industry is studying ad exposure, and audience retention during ad breaks down to the second-by-second level using set-top-box information, this unique new source of insight is refreshing,” noted Mike Pardee, senior vice president, research, for Scripps Networks and member of the MC&E Committee.

“Until now, we did not have any solid data on viewers' behavior during commercials,” added Horst Stipp, senior vice president, strategic insights & innovation, for NBC Universal and also a member of the MC&E Committee. “This study fills that gap and shows that viewers pay more attention to commercials than most people assumed."

“In short,” Ms. Cowan continued, “when the commercials come on, people stay with the TV; they only go the kitchen if they’re hungry, and they don’t fight over the remote.”

Data from the study can be found at CRE’s website: http://www.researchexcellence.com/vcm/vcm_dm_051010.php

“The VCM database has been an invaluable resource for the industry since it came out last year,” noted Mike Hess, CRE Chair and Executive Vice President - Research, Marketing Science and Consumer Insights at Carat. “It has provided a credible baseline for important items of industry knowledge; the current analysis substantially extends the usefulness of that dataset for the industry: We finally have a fully behavioral handle on classic issues pertaining to what viewers ‘really’ do when commercials are on the screen. Although this analysis wasn’t part of the initial set of objectives when the CRE set out to do this study, it is a testament to the robustness of the methodology employed that the analysis can be extended in this direction.”

About the Council for Research Excellence

The Council for Research Excellence (CRE) is an independent research group created by the Nielsen Company and comprised of senior-level industry researchers representing advertisers, agencies, broadcast networks, cable, syndicators, local stations, and industry associations. The CRE is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and practice of audience measurement methodology.  For more information on the Council for Research Excellence, please visit: www.researchexcellence.com