Comcast/Nielsen Also Find Free Content Most Sampled

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NEW YORK ( -- A new joint survey from Nielsen Media Research and Comcast found that TV viewing isn't affected by the use of digital video-on-demand services. According to the study, 75% of sample households with access to VOD used it at least once. And the VOD households sampled watched 9% more minutes of TV than all digital-cable households and 38% more than all cable households, for an average of 723 minutes.
'Never have so many been so wrong for so long,' said David Poltrack, CBS exec VP-research and planning.

The good news for advertisers was that among the most sampled content were shorter videos available for free, like music videos. The not-so-positive news: The most watched programs, that is, those shows that viewers spent the most time with, hailed from advertising-free subscription services such as HBO.

Nielsen Media Research joined with Comcast to marry local people-meter sample data with that of anonymously aggregated third-party figures provided by the cable operator. The two parties then looked at 180 households with VOD in the Philadelphia area between June and August 2005.

Age a factor
Among the surveys findings: 75% of households with access to VOD used it at least once during the study period; those households watched traditional TV for 723 minutes, 9% higher than all digital cable households and 38% higher than all cable households; and lastly the audience for VOD services appears to be younger. People between the ages of 18-34 made up 37% of all VOD minutes viewed compared to 20% of all traditional TV minutes. Children (aged 2-11) accounted for 19% of all minutes compared to 9% of traditional TV minutes.

David Poltrack, CBS exec VP-research and planning, revealed details of his own research on DVR usage. Mr. Poltrack, speaking on a panel at the Digital Hollywood conference in New York on Feb. 8, said: "Never have so many been so wrong for so long," referring to fears that DVR technologies would send viewers away from traditional TV. "TV viewing is up. Most of the audience has been under-reported. Only 1.4% of the national [Nielsen] sample are DVR homes." Mr. Poltrack said that around 10% of U.S. TV homes are equipped with DVRs. "We can't wait for DVR penetration to be 20%."

Ads will remain
"Advertising is going to be part of video on demand," he said. His research found that only 25% of his sample were commercial avoiders in the DVR universe. "Most people will take the programs with ads for less money, only about 25% will take the higher price."

The very existence of the Nielsen/Comcast study suggests that measurement of VOD is slowly improving. Nielsen Entertainment this week said it would work with Comcast to conduct separate VOD trials. The trials are set to begin some time in the first quarter of 2006, according to the statement.

A spokeswoman for Nielsen Media Research confirmed that the two parties are continuing discussions about working together on other VOD measurement projects. Effective measurement has been a stumbling block for wider advertiser participation in the emerging medium. Nielsen’s main rival in the space is Portland, Ore.-based Rentrack, which also has a deal with Comcast to track VOD usage.

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