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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Elephant in All Our Offices Revisited

Over five years ago, when I began this blog, the 2nd post was entitled, “The Elephant in All Our Offices” (January 6, 2009).  At the time, the elephant, of course, was DVR penetration specifically, and TV commercial avoidance in general.

Today, it appears that just under 50% of US TV households have a DVR or time shifting device. If you earn over $100,000, DVR penetration is closer to 60%. Over the last 18 months the rate of growth of DVR penetration has declined. Some ad agencies and a few broadcasters are saying that because DVR penetration is slowing, TV is not threatened all that much by commercial avoidance.

Admittedly, I am surprised that more programs are not time shifted these days. Half of the action appears on broadcast with much lower taping done on cable. Variety and drama are the most time shifted shows and they tend to be the top rated programs.

However, just because the RATE of DVR household penetration has slowed down does not mean there is not a growing problem as household penetration inches up. Also, five years ago, we did not have the four screen problem that we have today.

You can look at a variety of studies that illustrate that with every passing month more Americans use more devices than just the TV when they view. Watching a 21 year old view can be a dizzying experience as he or she swiftly shifts from device to device while the youngster is supposedly watching TV. I find myself, a fairly serious old movie buff, carrying my laptop with me, when watching a film. Invariably, I will Google “IMDB” (Internet Movie Database), several times during the viewing of the film. This Sunday, while the Super Bowl is on, I will be riveted to the commercials, but am sure to check statistics about the teams or background on the advertisers and their new campaigns while the action is taking place.

If mature, okay old men, such as I are using multiple screens, imagine what younger viewers are doing. When do they tweet or text or e-mail? Often it is during commercial breaks. Young men text during games and chat in g-mail or simply call friends on their Smartphones. During awards shows, young women are famous for tweeting. All of this has to have an impact on commercial effectiveness. Millions may be sitting dutifully in front of their sets when your expensive spot comes on any given evening, but how many are truly watching it when multi-media options abound?

So the elephant still exists. He has never left the viewing area. Actually, he has just gotten bigger but we do not see him clearly if all we do is concentrate on the decline in the rate of DVR growth.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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