Nielsen bolsters nets' DVR position

Rating the ads, in addition to the shows in between, could be a boon to network TV in its fight to get paid for viewers recording shows on DVRs.

Adding more data to the ongoing debate over commercial ratings, CBS chief research officer David Poltrack said numbers provided by Nielsen support the networks’ case that they should be given credit for viewers who play back shows on DVRs.

The numbers also show commercials recorded on network television are viewed and recalled at a higher rate than those on the top 10 basic-cable networks.

The data will add fuel to what became the biggest flashpoint in the 2006 upfront advertising talks, when ABC held out to have some DVR viewing counted by the advertising agencies but was forced to fold as other networks started writing business based solely on live ratings.

According to data provided by Nielsen and analyzed by CBS, 18% of viewing in households with DVRs occurs in playback mode during primetime, compared with 10% overall.

Of shows that are recorded, two-thirds are viewed on the same night and 80% are watched within two days.

Currently, the networks don’t get any ratings credit for shows reviewed later on DVRs.

But the networks are recorded at a much higher rate than cable. Some 77% of all shows played back are network shows, compared with 23% for cable, even though the ratings split between broadcast and cable is close to 50-50.

Poltrack predicts the Thursday night showdown between CBS’ “CSI” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” will trigger unprecedented DVR use, making accurate ratings of the ads, as well as the shows themselves, crucial.

By rating the ads, advertisers also can gauge the engagement of audiences with shows as well as with the accompanying advertising.

According to IAG Research, the average engagement with network shows — measured by the viewer’s ability to correctly answer questions about the content — was 76% for network TV as opposed to 60% for basic cable.

New Nielsen initiatives such as measuring out-of-home audiences at work and restaurants and on campus also will turn up significant network viewers that don’t currently count in the ratings.

“The message here is there is still a significant uncounted audience, and it is the network’s goal to get credit for the audience and Nielsen’s goal to measure it,” Poltrack said.

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