Long gone are the days when we’d gather around our television sets for the latest batch of “must see TV.” These days, we can just catch up on our favorite programs whenever we want since we can simply time shift them. Audiences have decided that they can’t be bothered with the networks’ schedule. We want to watch what we want, when we want. Period.
Time shifting is experiencing exponential growth, but it threatens broadcasters’ and media companies’ status quo. They are desperately trying to maintain control over their primetime, the advertising tied to primetime, and the content itself. Time shifting threatens their way of doing business. However, it seems the more the cable companies and content providers try to fight time shifting, the more consumers demand it. And why wouldn’t they? Most of the content we want is available online, on demand. We can find what we need, when we need it. To the modern consumer, access is more important than ownership.
One of the problems is that time-shifted or DVRed content isn’t included in the metrics. The more you measure it, the more you see that time-shifted views of broadcast content represent a larger and larger percentage of the total views of that content. And it is growing – this year consumers have viewed 25% more DVRed content than last year.
However, if consumers don’t want to watch by the broadcast schedule, when do they want to watch? A recent New York Times article explains that viewers are catching up on their time-shifted content on Fridays, already a traditionally weak ratings night. The article states:
“Friday is a big DVR viewing night,” said David F. Poltrack, CBS head of research. “by Friday, people have built up an inventory of shows they recorded earlier in the week.”
We know why viewers want to time shift, and we know that the cable and content companies are fighting to maintain the status quo. Maybe the big companies should reconsider their stance. Time shifting offers access to audiences who you cannot reach during primetime, and enables an existing audience to watch more often. Research studies have also shown that online viewers are more likely to watch commercials and are more engaged with the advertisement than broadcast viewers are.
Perhaps once the methods of measurement catch up to reality – and count the people who are time-shifting content (Nielson plans to start measuring DVR viewership in some major metros in 2012), advertisers will become more aware of how numerous, valuable and engaged these viewers are. Then broadcasters will be able to leverage (financially) and therefore embrace (technically) the new behaviors and expanded audiences. It really doesn’t matter how hard the media companies try to hold on to the broadcast model, though. Time shifting is here to stay, and soon enough our children will laugh at the inconvenient concept of “broadcast.”