The TV tastes of today's daytime audience are far different and more discriminating than those of the traditional crowd.
More men are choosing to stay at home during the day with their families. But TV programmers have yet to notice.
Sheryl B. Wiblin makes an appointment to see Dr. Phil every Tuesday at 4 p.m. The 38-year-old Wiblin isn't sick. Rather, she's hooked on the relationship advice that the â€œlife strategistâ€? prescribes during his weekly visit to Oprah. As a freelance media publicist who works from home in Sherman Oaks, California, Wiblin determines her own work hours, making sure she's free for Dr. Phil's diagnosis, and for her daily dose of Regis, CNN, and CNBC's Power Lunch. Wiblin says that her daytime television viewing has actually doubled in the past three years, ironically thanks to the Internet. â€œThe Internet is something I use because I have to, for business,â€? she says. â€œBut when you work at home you are so isolated. TV has become my way of feeling connected to the outside world.â€?
Chances are the undying and ever-increasing number of soap operas, court, talk, and game shows that have been the staple of daytime TV for years aren't going anywhere. The bulk of daytime TV viewers, and the primary audience for these kinds of shows, has remained the same for decades â€” stay-at-home moms, retired seniors, students, and those who are injured or unemployed. In the past few years, however, increased technology, more flexible work arrangements, and shifting gender roles have made more young, educated, and wealthy consumers of both sexes available to join this group during the day. As a result, the overall composition of the daytime TV audience is slowly and subtly beginning to change.
Some may argue that working from home and watching television are incompatible activities, and yet actions speak louder: 43 percent of women and 19 percent of men who currently work from home watch at least some daytime television, as do 34 percent of all part-time workers, according to an American Demographics' analysis of data from Simmons Market Research Bureau. But what, how, and how much this group watches is vastly different from the traditional daytime audience. As home-based and flex-time workplace trends continue, there may be an opportunity for TV programmers and advertisers to reach an even larger chunk of this more lucrative, prime-time-like audience during the daylight hours.
More people are finding and taking opportunities to blur the differences between their work and home lives. The percentage of wage and salary workers with flexible schedules jumped from 15 percent in 1991 to 28 percent in 1997, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the number of people who telework â€” or do work from someplace other than a traditional office â€” is expected to reach 30 million by 2004, up from 23.6 million today, according to the International Telework Association & Council (ITAC). What's more, home-based teleworkers are a particularly attractive demographic, with median average incomes in the lower $50,000 range, compared with the lower $30,000 range for non-teleworkers, and 82 percent of them have at least some college education, compared with 60 percent of those with traditional work arrangements.
The vast majority of home-based teleworkers (85 percent) spend at least some time working during hours that do not fall within the traditional 9-to-5 shift, thus leaving many of them with a little more free time at home during the day than average suit-and-tie employees. It appears that some of these teleworkers are spending that time sneaking a peek at the tube, as the overall composition of the daytime TV viewing audience seems to be shifting slightly more upscale, according to an analysis of average daytime Nielsen ratings by Twentieth Television, a division of FOX Corporation. Perhaps most interesting is the growth in the proportion of adult male viewers making up the daytime TV audience. According to Twentieth Television's analysis, 25 percent more men with some college, and 27 percent more men with household incomes of $50,000 or more, watched daytime TV in the fourth quarter of 2000 than in 1995.
The TV tastes of the new daytimers are far different from and more discriminating than those of the traditional crowd, however. For instance, while about 35 percent of all homemakers watch a daytime soap opera at least once a week, only 22 percent of people who work at home do, according to Simmons. Not finding what they crave on regular broadcast stations, many daytimers have turned their sights to cable. Forty-year-old Sari Fremont, for one, is a fan of Lifetime and of The Learning Channel's series of reality shows: A Baby Story, A Wedding Story, and A Dating Story, which chronicle the lives of real people during their most intimate moments. Fremont, a social worker and mother of two, runs a private practice out of her home in Haworth, New Jersey, and says that she's too busy most days to watch television. But when she does, she tries to select TV programs that give her some piece of knowledge or bit of advice, â€œsomething I can take into my pocketbook with me.â€?
THE DAYTIME DIVIDE
About 7 percent of men who work from home watch MSNBC during the day (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) for at least a half an hour.
Most watched cable channels during the day:
Index* (% who watch)
Index* (% who watch)
Index* (% who watch)
|ESPN Classic||257||(2.2%)||Inspirational Network||354||(2.0%)||Nickelodeon||249||(12.7%)|
|CSPN||212||(2.6%)||Game show Network||228||(3.6%)||Disney Channel||220||(8.5%)|
|FOX News Channel||191||(5.5%)||E!||185||(4.1%)||Lifetime||198||(11.9%)|
|TV Land||172||(3.0%)||Disney Channel||174||(6.7%)||Food Network||184||(3.8%)|
|CNBC||166||(6.1%)||Lifetime||171||(10.3%)||FOX Family Channel||169||(6.6%)|
|ESPN||2||164||(4.0%)||HGTV||168||(6.0%)||Arts & Entertainment||152||(7.2%)|
|ESPN||156||(7.2%)||The Learning Channel||167||(7.0%)||Weather Channel||143||(12.0%)|
|Food Network||151||(3.1%)||CNN||130||(7.8%)||The Discovery Channel||133||(6.5%)|
|Any daytime||TV||63||(19%)||Any daytime||TV||143||(43%)||Any daytime||TV||182||(54%)|
|*An index of 100 is the national average. For example, work-at-home men are 101% more likely to watch MSNBC than the average American.|
|Source: Simmons Market Research Bureau|
In fact, just 29 percent of all women working at home or part-time say that current daytime television offerings are at all relevant to their lives, compared with 35 percent of homemakers or nonworking women who say so, according to Encino, California-based e-Poll. Elizabeth Cox, 28, started teleworking from home about a year ago, working for Outlook Marketing Services, a public relations and marketing agency in Chicago, and while she'd like to watch TV on her breaks, and has the time, she's all but given up on finding something she considers worthwhile. â€œThe shows that are on now either talk down to you or are about some random teenage abuse story which doesn't at all relate to my life,â€? says Cox. â€œWith so many more people at home now, it just doesn't make sense that there's not more prime-time-like programming on during the day.â€?
Actually, it makes perfect sense, according to David Poltrack, CBS's executive vice president of research and planning. While he acknowledges the demographic shift of the at-home audience, and anticipates that advertisers will find daytimers a little more attractive in future years, he doesn't expect the trend to drastically affect network or syndicated programming. TV is, after all, a numbers game. â€œSure, we'd love to [create original ER-quality programming during the day], but for $9 million per episode, that's not going to happen. Because even if the available audience is changing in education, age, and socioeconomic status, it is still not a large enough group, in terms of sheer numbers, to put that much money into.â€?
In 2000, 43 percent of daytime television viewers had some college or more, up from 31 percent in 1990.
Selected demographics of daytime TV watchers:
|Some college or more||43%||31%|
|High school or less||58%||70%|
|$75,000 or more||24%||7%|
|Note: Columns may not add to 100% due to rounding|
|Source: Simmons Market Research Bureau|
Thus, the changing demographics of daytime viewers are more likely to influence cable programming, especially on the news and business channels, says Dan Wilch, vice president of entertainment at the New York City offices of research and consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates. Wilch recently conducted focus groups for an unnamed financial network, talking specifically with at-home workers, and found that many do keep such stations on in the background throughout the day. And while that time may not be 100 percent attentive viewing, it is certainly more time with the medium than they had as 9-to-5ers. For context, Wilch points out that only about 15 percent to 35 percent of homemakers â€” who have a false reputation for sitting on the couch with their eyes glued to the TV all day â€” are giving daytime programming their full attention. And yet that certainly hasn't stopped advertisers from going after them.
Some cable stations are slowly starting to go with the emerging flow. Fox News Channel, for instance, with programs like Your World with Neil Cavuto, attempts to reach beyond the Wall Street crowd. â€œThe same group of people who tune in to Oprah are now following the stock market and are just as hungry for accurate market information as stockbrokers in pin-striped suits,â€? says Cavuto, vice president, anchor, and managing editor of business news at the cable station.
TV programmers may also find an opportunity in leveraging at-home workers' high level of Internet use. According to a recent study by Westfield, New Jersey-based Statistical Research Inc., 18 percent of broadband users â€œdouble-clickâ€? â€” use the TV and PC simultaneously â€” sometime during the daytime hours on an average day, compared with 8.4 percent of all Internet users. And over 19 percent of all Internet users say they've watched a TV program as a direct result of something they saw or read online. Now consider this: The average teleworker has two PCs and 2.6 TVs, they spend 55 percent of their work time using the computer, and almost 25 percent of them have broadband access (compared with about 7 percent of all Internet users in the U.S.).
There may also be the potential to widen the overall audience for daytime television by providing better- quality content aimed at specific and growing pockets of the at-home viewership. Thanks to shifting gender roles, for example, there are more men choosing to stay at home during the day with their families. Take 33-year-old Dave Williams, who, in order to spend more time with his newborn daughter, traded in the long hours and commute of a more traditional job last year for â€œhome work,â€? launching a skate and surf clothing company, Dragonfish, from his Newport Beach, California home. Williams says he'd love to veg out in front of the tube during breaks, but he rarely does. â€œThere's just nothing decent on daytime TV for guys,â€? he says. â€œSure, there's ESPN, but they always seem to have something inane on during the day like the National Lumberjack Championships. They obviously think there is no one out there watching.â€?
Last year, almost 10 percent of 25- to 54-year-old men watched daytime television at home between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., up from 8.7 percent in 1992.
Numbers represent Nielsen Ratings of Weekday Daytime TV Usage (HUT/PUT)*.
|WOMEN (25 TO 54)||WORKING WOMEN (25 TO 54)||MEN (25 TO 54)|
|Note: Usage ratings represent the percentage of each population watching TV in a given minute during the period between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.|
|Source: Horizon Media analysis of Nielsen Media Research|
Obviously. For advertisers and media buyers, the business of daytime TV is still business as usual. Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson still spend the most dough in the daypart, pushing their cleaning fluids and baby shampoo. It is likely to be a while before we start regularly seeing commercials for home office supplies or beer on daytime TV. â€œThere has to be some really specific numbers about whether or not these new at-home people are really worth targeting,â€? says Steven Neiman, CEO of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based advertising and media buying agency The Neiman Group. â€œRight now, we think we know that there are more stay-at-home dads and stay-at-home workers, but do we really know what they are doing there, in terms of media use? Even if the TV is on, are they really paying attention? We don't know yet. And there's just too much money involved to make an educated guess.â€? In the TV biz, what you don't know can hurt you.
Additional research provided by John Fetto.