DVR'S, DOWNLOADS CHANGING THE WORLD OF TV
In an age of instant statistical gratification, network execs are discovering that patience is now much more than a virtue -- it's a fact of life.
While box office prognosticators these days can hazard a reliable guess as to a pic's perf after just one or two East Coast showings, TV's rapidly evolving distribution landscape is increasingly turning the ratings race into something of a guessing (and waiting) game.
New viewing options such as DVRs, streaming videos and instant downloads that allow auds to watch shows on their own timetable are making it harder than ever to figure out just how many people are tuning in to a show -- particularly new series. And it has become easier than ever for nets to spin Nielsen numbers and hide behind more marginally performing shows.
The new uncertainty has hit hard during the first few weeks of the 2007-08 season. Producers and webheads are praying that big declines in viewership for some returning shows -- and generally lackluster numbers for newcomers -- will magically improve once Nielsen issues final data encompassing DVR usage later this month.
"We're going to see a tremendous boost when the (DVR) numbers come back," says ABC research senior VP Mike Mellon -- who expects "Grey's Anatomy" to grow by a full ratings point, for starters.
"That's a huge difference," he says.
As a result, CBS Corp. chief research officer David Poltrack says "it's going to be very uncomfortable" until those numbers come out.
"We're not used to lags in getting information."
None of this is to suggest that the next-day numbers are meaningless. Virtually all shows attract 80% or more of their audience from live or same-day viewing, and it's still easy to tell a big hit or flop based on overnight numbers.
Yet there's enough viewing independent of the traditional broadcast premiere to make it worth to wait for final numbers.
NBC research topper Alan Wurtzel says the days of instant Nielsen nirvana are over.
"This is a whole new world, and anyone who doesn't understand that is behind the times," he says. "I recognize that everyone wants to understand what their performance is quickly, but the days of having a single number that reflects a show's performance are over."
YAHOO TOPS IN SPORTS ON INTERNET
Yahoo Sports knocked off ESPN in August to become the most-visited online sports destination, thanks in part to its acquisition of college sports network Rivals.com.
According to Nielsen//NetRatings, Yahoo edged ESPN by about 200,000 unique visitors in August, finishing the month with 18.4 million visitors. Yahoo continued to be the leader in September, as far as weekly metrics, with nearly 12 million visitors for the week ending Sept. 23, about 3 million more than ESPN.
A big reason for this has been Rivals.com, a network of 110 college sports and other high school sites that Yahoo acquired in late June for about $100 million. Jimmy Pitaro, GM and vp of Yahoo Sports, said that Rivals in August brought about 1 million additional visitors to Yahoo, which admittedly was “short staffed” as far as college sports before the acquisition.
“The integration of the Rivals property has been pretty seamless,” Pitaro said. “There’s massive integration throughout our college sites, and our users are clicking over at a pretty nice rate.”
Pitaro said Yahoo has not and does not intend to make any changes to Rivals content but will continue to ramp up integration and promotion.
The start of the pro football season Sept. 6 also keyed an increase in visitors to Yahoo Sports. It had fewer than 7 million users for the week ending Aug. 5, but the number grew steadily to nearly 13 million by the week ending Sept. 16, just as the site’s 4 million fantasy football players were busy drafting and ordering their rosters.
“They’re an incredibly engaged, passionate and focused sports audience,” Pitaro said. “They consume a lot of pages online, and they also interact very nicely with the site, not just on the fantasy products.”
GERMAN BROADCASTERS FINED $300 MILLION FOR AD PRACTICES
Germany's two leading commercial broadcasters have been fined a total of more than $300 million for anti-competitive practices in booking on-air advertising.
RTL Television and ProSiebenSat.1 on Friday agreed to the fines as part of an out-of-court settlement with Germany's cartel office.
ProSiebenSat.1's ad booking subsidiary SevenOne Media was fined €120 million ($170 million). RTL's IP Deutschland has to pay €96 million ($136 million).
At issue was the widespread practice of so-called share of advertising deals between IP/SevenOne and ad booking agencies. Under these deals, a standard practice in Germany and elsewhere, agencies receive rebates for agreeing to book a certain percentage of their ad-spend with a broadcaster.
Germany's cartel office ruled that in the case of SevenOne and IP, share deals were anti-competitive because they locked up the TV advertising market, making it difficult for smaller channels to compete.
Between them IP and SevenOne are responsible for more than 80% of the German television advertising market. This is roughly proportional to the market share that RTL and ProSieben-controlled channels have of the key 14-49 demographic in Germany.
SevenOne and IP Deutschland plan to unveil their new ad pricing models to clients next week. But ad-booking agencies are fearful the change could be bad news for them and their advertising clients.
"We're worried that the broadcasters will use this ruling to just give fewer rebates or lesser rebates," said Hans Kratz, spokesman for German media agency association OMG.
"This ruling has caused a lot of uncertainty between us and our advertising clients," admitted Cordelia Wagner, spokeswoman for IP Deutschland. "Share of advertising deals were standard practice for a long time. Now we have to do a lot of work to win back trust with our customers."
Friday's ruling does not apply to smaller German commercial channels such as RTL 2, Tele 5 or NBC Universal's Das Vierte, which will still be allowed share-of-advertising style deals.
Both RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 said Friday that despite the fines and the introduction of new advertising models they would meet their year-end performance targets.