As the TV industry continues to question where the boys are, Nielsen Entertainment and videogame publisher Activision may have found the answer.
The companies are partnering to expand audience research in the vidgame sector and, as a first move, they conducted a poll of gaming and TV viewership habits among young men.
Survey found that three quarters of TV households with a male between 8 and 34 have a gaming console and, among that audience, 18- to 34-year-old gamers watch slightly less television than other men their age. For 8- to 17-year-old boys, though, TV viewership among gamers is the same as for non-gamers.
Male gamers spend an average of 12.5 hours per week playing videogames, a figure that’s apparently taking a chunk out of TV time for those over 18, which stands at 9.8 hours per week. While Nielsen was quick to note the poll captured only one moment of time in February, the numbers may help to explain the 7.7% decline in 18-34 male TV viewership recorded this past fall season.
“It’s reasonable to suspect this has something to do with the decline in TV viewership,” said Nielsen Entertainment CEO Andy Wing. “These figures would definitely vary depending on the seasonal programming content, but it’s clear there’s a greater affinity amongst young males for videogames and it’s challenging other forms of entertainment.”
In-game ads up
While research has significant implications for networks, the companies are partnering to help improve data available for the small but growing trend of in-game advertising.
Within the next 12 months, companies plan to take advantage of audible watermarks that will allow wireless devices to detect when players interact with in-game products branded by advertisers. As the next generation Xbox 2 and PlayStation 3 launch with broadband capabilities in 2006, Nielsen will also use the Net to track gameplay.
“There are about 30 billion hours of game play a year, but right now there’s no way to measure it and put a tangible value on it,” said Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. “That’s preventing us from taking advantage of a real market opportunity to advertise to our core audience of young males.”
Activision has calculated that videogames could potentially take over $7 billion of the U.S. advertising market, given the size and value of the audience.
Last year, vidgame companies attracted only about $10 million in advertising, with brands paying at most $500,000 for prominent placement of their products in games like “Tony Hawk Underground.”
Nielsen is currently in talks with a number of vidgame publishers and hopes to roll out its wireless tracking system within 12 months. It is also aiming to begin tracking retail sales of vidgames in the same time frame.