Magna Global's Commercial Pod Index (CPI) measures the percentage of viewers who stay tuned in to a commercial pod vs. the average program segment. The study was conducted across 60 prime-time programs on the five broadcast networks from November 2006 to February 2007, examining one episode per month of each show. For cable, the same method was applied to 90 programs on 36 cable networks; and for syndication, 24 programs were isolated from six different program types.
Least drop-off for syndicated
This year, syndication had the highest CPI at 98 (or 2% commercial drop-off), with broadcast close behind at 93 and cable up one point this year to 90. On broadcast, the first minute -- or "A" position of the pod was rated 3% higher than the rest, while cable scored 6% higher during the same time. Syndication and broadcast CPI scores were essentially unchanged from last year.
Nielsen has made minute-by-minute commercial ratings available for several years, but the system does not include any pod-specific data. That presents a few key flaws, said Steve Sternberg, exec VP-audience analysis, Magna Global, but is still a good step toward a more accurate and accountable metric.
"While average commercial ratings will not necessarily provide data that is more representative of an advertiser's actual commercial, given the general network policy of equitable rotation, it will provide a more accurate gauge of commercial exposure over the course of an entire buy," he said.
Measuring DVR playback
The average rating also allows Magna Global to include delayed viewers on DVR and TiVo playback, a TV-viewing format that has become a battleground for advertisers. Magna found two-thirds of all commercials are being skipped on DVR playback of broadcast shows, with CBS scoring the highest in playback with a 36 CPI and the CW the lowest at 31. Individual shows with the strongest live-to-DVR ratios are ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" (95/27) and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (93/31); CBS' "Survivor" (92/29) and "Amazing Race" (94/33); NBC's "Apprentice" (91/26); Fox's "American Idol" (93/29) and the CW's "America's Next Top Model" (86/28).
But despite all the surprising statistics, Mr. Sternberg found few conclusive secrets to commercial audience retention. "For comedies, there seemed to be a correlation between more non-program time and lower Commercial Pod Indexes," he said in the report. "But this didn't seem to have much impact on a drama or reality series. ... There didn't seem to be any impact on comedies based on length of time before the first commercial -- which could simply be a function of the half-hour format."