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TiVo report confirms fears of ad-skipping

Biz eyes branding with 77% of viewers blocking blurbs

NEW YORK — Now there are numbers to back up advertisers’ worries.

As an additional revenue stream, DVR company TiVo will begin selling info on the viewing patterns of its subscribers, and the results confirm Madison Avenue’s worst fears. Data shows that 77% of TiVo viewers who pre-recorded primetime programming skipped commercials.

Unlike Nielsen, which provides viewing statistics in half-hour or hourly blocks, the TiVo reports — developed with Starcom MediaVest Group — will track primetime audience behavior on five broadcast nets by the minute.

Madison Avenue has long bemoaned the TiVo effect — essentially that it is ushering out the 30-second spot and other traditional advertising vehicles. As a result, branded and integrated entertainment is a growing, almost dominant, alternative, causing ad agencies to scramble to acquire entertainment boutiques. Last month, WPP’s Mediaedge:cia bought a stake in Gotham entertainment consultancy the Leverage Group, following the lead of agencies like Omnicom Group and the Interpublic Group.

But the fear of TiVo had been largely anecdotal. The company’s new quarterly reports change that.

Starcom found that only 17% of viewers watching live programming skipped commercials, compared with the 77% viewing pre-recorded content. More than 60% of TiVo subs record programs to watch later.

Study also found that shows like “American Idol” and “The Bachelor,” which tend to generate the most chitchat in the office, are most often watched live with less commercial skipping. But high-profile sitcoms and dramas like “Friends” and “CSI” tend to be pre-recorded and watched sans commercials.

The Starcom/TiVo study focused on primetime programming from NBC, ABC, Fox and the WB, including 70 different primetime shows that aired from October 2002 to February.