Among Traditional TV Genres, Cable Dramas See the Largest Lift From Digital

April 25, 2019

Despite data that shows younger Americans are watching less traditional television, when they do watch traditional TV content they spend quite a bit of time watching it live. A recent Nielsen report has revealed that for viewers age 18-34, two-thirds (66%) of their time spent viewing content from the four major broadcast networks during the period of analysis was done so live. When watching cable networks, the share was even greater – four-fifths (81%) of their time viewing was live as opposed to on DVR, VOD or digital platforms.

This is good news for the networks, given continuing high ad loads for national TV. It also helps brands invested in TV advertising in the conversation as digital takes share in terms of paid media driving word-of-mouth.

It’s worth noting that this particular Nielsen analysis is based on data from Q4 2017, so it’s likely that the percentages have swung more to digital viewing in the time since.

Live TV is just one way that consumers can tune in to their favorite programs, of course. For those younger viewers who watching on digital platforms, 71% of their time spent watching broadcast network content was done on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet), compared to 29% viewed on a computer. The distribution favored desktop more when 18-34-year-olds watched cable network programming digitally, as they almost split their time evenly between desktop (45%) and mobile (55%) platforms.

Digital Provides A Viewing Lift For Certain Genres

In a separate release of data covering a more recent time period (a 1- or 3-month period during H1 2018, depending on the data), Nielsen found that digital provided a lift in viewing more for certain genres of content than others. Cable dramas, in particular, experienced the greatest lift from digital devices, with a 9% lift for all people above the age of 2 (average audience projection episode average).

Notably, the biggest contributor to this viewing lift for cable dramas came from 18-24-year-olds, who were responsible for a 22% lift from digital. Interestingly enough, the biggest viewing lift for 18-24-year-olds was for broadcast sitcoms, at 27%.

In more general terms, 64% of cable drama viewing was done through digital means (DVR, VOD, computer, mobile) compared to the 36% viewed on live TV. On the other end of the spectrum, broadcast comedy/talk shows – which only saw a 1% lift from digital – had a large majority (80%) of program viewing on live TV versus 20% through digital means.

About the Data: For Nielsen’s Total Platform Content Ratings Benchmarks Report – Q4 2017; TV ratings (Live/DVR), VOD (VOD in TV Ratings, VOD Content Ratings) and digital (Digital in TV ratings/Digital Content Ratings census) data reporting in Total Content Ratings and Digital Content Ratings. Composition calculation base is the sum of all component platform time spent benchmarks across day-parts.

For Nielsen’s Total Content Rating, the study focused on daily viewing over a typical month on live TV, DVRs and set-top-box video-on-demand (VOD) sources over 312 different programs in a variety of genres. It also did the same for connected-device VOD (such as a Roku device), computer and mobile viewing to see which program types drove the most digital lift among different age demographics.

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