Binge Watching Impacting Live TV Stats


NEW YORK — Fewer people are watching live TV, favoring instead to binge watch TV episodes, says a report from Nielsen and reported in the Los Angeles Times.

Viewers 18 to 49 who watched prime-time television during premiere week this fall fell to 25.5 percent — down 8 percent from a year ago.

And the combined audience for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the CW for the week of Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 was down 11 percent from a year ago, continuing the long-term trend of viewers shifting away from TV live.

Analysts say the drop is a result of more viewers watching their favorite shows through DVR playback, video-on-demand (VOD) services, and streaming platforms.

Nearly three-quarters — 73 percent — of Americans said they binge watched programs, according to a survey by Deloitte, including 90 percent of U.S millennials. Some 38 percent of those millennials also said they binge watched every week.

Insiders say it’s a continuation of a trend from last season, and that the number of people using television in prime time has declined steadily during the past five years with the emergence of streaming video, especially among viewers under 35.

Streaming data for network shows are not included in Nielsen’s totals, but the audience measurement company is moving toward providing data that does incorporate it.

Many network programs gain viewership when delayed viewing on DVR playback and VOD services are included in the ratings totals. A majority of deals with advertisers are based on how many people watched the commercials in the shows within three or seven days of their initial airing. Networks are also selling more commercials on their online viewing platforms for their programs.

Even with the drop in traditional TV viewing, network executives note that they are still reaching large audiences through time shifting and generating more revenue from digital platforms.

Despite ratings declines last season, the five major English-speaking broadcast networks sold $9.1 billion in advertising for the 2017-18 season, a 4.1-percent increase over the previous year, according to research firm Media Dynamics.

Overall, live-TV viewing results are still strong: an average of four hours, 21 minutes of live TV programming per day for all TV viewers versus 34 minutes of DVR time-shifted viewing, according to first-quarter Nielsen results.