Top Time Shifted TV Shows And ‘Ad Creep’

Published 6 years ago by , Updated June 16th, 2014 at 10:30 am,

seymour collection Top Time Shifted TV Shows And Ad CreepYou’re probably incredibly confused right now with my lead-in image. Don’t worry, it will all make sense by the time you get to the end…

“Time Shifting” is when a viewer watches a television program after its original air time. It’s the proverbial thorn in the side of advertisers. If people are not exposed to the advertising planted in the commercial spots when a TV show is aired, the ads don’t work (because people skip them when watching the show later). Then the money that pays for TV series doesn’t come in, and our favorite shows get canceled.

In other words, right now – it’s a bad thing.

Nielsen has embraced the fact that we no longer watch television programs when they are initially broadcast, and it tracks these kinds of parameters. The following statistics deal with time-shifted viewings that take place within 7 days of the original airdate of a program via DVR/Tivo playback.

Though Battlestar Galactica is Sci-Fi Channel’s biggest hit, it’s also the number one time shifted show – with a whopping 53% of its viewers watching later. USA’s Burn Notice is 2nd highest on that list with 37% of it’s audience watching later. Other shows we like were also in that top 10 category. Heroes (35%), Sanctuary (35%), Eureka (34%), Fringe (27%). Technically, there were 13 shows in the top 10. Huh? No, it’s not new math – four shows were tied for 10th.

Another metric used to measure time shifted viewings is by the numbers – or millions of viewers who did so.

Despite the fact that usually reality TV and sports are the least time-shifted shows, the top lister for numbers of viewers was American Idol, which dragged in over 2.1 million mindless shifted viewings. Face it: Reality-based shows are tough to “shift watch” because unless you hide under your desk, you’re bound to hear about the results or events of the show at work the next day. But other shows that made the top 10 shifted shows in numbers were Heroes (1.8), Lost (1.7), Fringe (1.6) and House (1.5). (Numbers in the millions)

I’m skipping over the distinctions between cable and network differences right now, though if you look, cable based shows have the highest percentage of shifted viewings while network shows have the greater number of viewers… Didn’t I just say I wasn’t going to go there? Eh, whatever… there it is.

I’m confused because your favorite cynical writing critic ponders the idea that these exact demographics are the death knell of live ratings, but the other aspect that the statistical analyst in me looks at is that though these numbers seem big, they’re not. They are only a small percentage of total viewers that do end up watching a show in its slotted air date/time. IE: When a show like Criminal Minds snags 15+ million viewers, these tiny 1+ million numbers account for less than 7% of the viewing audience, so for now, it’s not a large impact on advertisers… yet.

A related rant: When products do become part of the script:
I had predicted in an earlier Screen Rant article that we would see product placement become integrated into television programs. (Be warned: It’s a novel of an article) My off the handle example was:

Clark Kent busts a door down, then stops to say “I’ll bet the homeowners here can get a replacement door from Summit Doors” and then blurs on in to save the family.

I was saying that advertising isn’t going to survive on ads alone and will have to start placing products in the shows themselves, like they did in an older movie, The Truman Show.

Theory? Speculation? Nope – I have already seen it.

Last week on NBC’s My Name Is Earl, Darnell (Eddie Steeples) buys his girl Joy (Jaime Pressley) some jewelry. She opens it up and screams out something close to this very statement: “Oh my god, it’s a Kay Jewelers Open Hearts Pendant from the Jane Seymour Collection!” (I told you the image at the start of this post would make sense).

My jaw dropped when I heard that. Sigh… Yes, it’s a tiny bit of validation but in this case, I’m not too jazzed about a validation of my prediction. In-show product advertising is coming… You’ve been warned.

This report brought you by my Dell Inspiron Laptop, Pepsi powered typing and made possible by the JVC television that I saw everything on. There, I’m now one of the cogs in the big machine. Inline advertising is here!

Note: The Nielsen data used originated from studies from 1/1/08 to 11/30/08.
Source: Media Post

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  1. Haha, nice article, Bruce. Just a quick note on the My Name Is Earl thing – wasn’t that in the episode as a sort of parody, “wink-wink” kind of moment? Sort of playing on the idea of what you’re saying? Earl seems like the kind of show that would do something like that.

  2. Ross Miller: Anything that is shown in a television program is a ‘paid for placement’. To place a product in a show and possibly have the product owner be upset, risks litigation. There’s no charity in this business.

    If you see the lit Apple symbol on the back of a computer, that was paid for.

    If you see the Nike swirl in a scene, that was paid for.

    Etc., etc.. My bud who was one of only a few companies that did product placement for the industry really burst my bubble when she told me a bunch of insider tales.

    I didn’t see the product placement on Earl as a parody probably because I was groaning to loudly the moment I started hearing it. I could have been a parody… a paid for parody!

    Thanks for visiting Ross.

  3. Yay PEPSI!!! :) Very very good article. Im glad someone takes into account these statistics, no wonder Heroes has been getting lower ratings, not only can you record the episodes but you can also watch them online and on Netflix. I actually like product placement, to me it gives the show(or movie) a more realistic feel. Except when it goes too far, or its wayyy too noticable (like the Superman example) but its kinda cool when you see someone pick up a real drink or when Iron Man has himself some Burger King :)

  4. FYI, the actor’s name on MY NAME IS EARL is “Eddie Steeples”

  5. Roxanne: What’dya talkin’ about!?

    tap tap tap, thump, tap tap,…

    IT says Steeples…

    All joking aside, thank you for the edit/fix Roxanne. I looked it up, I saw it but my fingers went somewhere else. Getting old can suck.

  6. I never thought about it much. If I look closely though, I do see a lot of what you are saying. My favorite thing is when the show does a facsimile of a well known product. Example; in a show my young daughters watch, the characters have these slick white lap tops sporting a glowing pear with a bite missing.

    It never occurred to me that these might also be paid product placements. Does this mean that these companies have a sense of humor?

    What puts me off a product is when the placement is so blatant that, like you, my groaning drowns out the show I’m watching. I’ll even leave the room when they’re as bad as the ‘Superman’ and ‘Earl’ examples you used. The laptop one makes me smile since it’s clever and subtle. I suppose if the product wasn’t already well known that low key style of placement couldn’t work.

    Great article Bruce, but now I’m going to be even more cynical of the things I see in my favorite shows. Gee, thanks Bruce. ;)

  7. David: Cynics Unite!!

    It is sometimes hard to watch TV. It takes an active effort to NOT see these things and enjoy what you’ve tuned into.

    Just to be clear, and maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I made up the Superman example.

    AM I being too dense? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that. Hmm.

  8. I was shocked when I saw Joy get that present and such not no subtle product name and placement.

    On the other hand, it being Earl, I laughed as well because I detected a sense of sarcasm in that scene. I’m pretty sure that the sponsor’s didn’t demand that Joy say “OMG! It’s that necklace from Kay Jewelers that Jane Seymore sells!” I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea. It seemed more of “I can’t believe the network’s making me write this in but I’ll get even somehow.”

    Still, I think that The Day the Earth Stood Still is the champion of horrifyingly unsubtle product placement. I SO hated McDonald’s at that moment. Well, all 10 or 15 or them. I think we went to Arby’s after the movie.

  9. Bruce:

    I got it that you made up the Superman one. But I do wonder how long before we see that sort of placements for brand new items on our favorite commercials, uh shows, I mean shows.

    Isn’t this The sort of thing that used to be done in the early early years of television? I Don’t remember, I’m not quite that old. Or maybe I am and I just can’t remember any more. ;)

  10. “My Name Is Earl”,
    Is the best comedy on tv and has been for the last 3 years!!!!!!!!!!!


  11. Sorry, i beg to differ. The Office is :)

  12. Actually, it all depends on taste.

    For some, The Office rocks. For others, Earl rocks. And then for the mutant many, reality programming does.

    You know what The Office reminds me of? Seinfeld, but at work. That’s why I think it’s so popular. Similar emotional atmosphere. But that’s just me twisted take on life.

    We all have our favs.

  13. Reality TV has not yet gone the way of the dinosaur, Heaven Help Us.
    I still can’t believe they are still making Survivors. and Big Brothers

  14. Yeah, I was shocked to see a post over at AICN about a Survivor season finale – can’t believe that’s still on.

    I do have a couple of guilty pleasures when it comes to reality shows though: The Biggest Loser (I love seeing people turn their lives/health around) and The Mole (it’s a great whodunit).


  15. I remember watching a show a long time ago and loving it. It was something about a murder case or something similar, and it was a reality show. I remember it had the letter X in the title, any help please?

  16. I do enjoy the biggest loser and ya know, I liked the older Mole more than I did this version.

    Survivor and Big Brother are sadly, still going strong!

  17. @ Vic
    I am with you there Vic. I have my “reality TV” Guilty pleasure. I like the competitions type like Hells Kitchen, Top Chef (I am pretty much limted to the likes of Cooking reality shows.)I find that there is already too much contention in the World, I don’t need to watch. and thats where most of the Reality shows have lost me, its more about fueding and backstabbing, than actual competition.But thats just me.

  18. @Oscar
    I think it was called X-Factor or soemthing like it

  19. I saw this kind of thing coming 5 yrs ago. The current format of segment 1, then a commercial, and then segment 2, and so forth has been slowly dieing out for awhile now. on the plus side, and hour program can be a full hour now.

  20. Normally product placement does not irritate me, but that Kay Jewelers thing on Earl is over the top.

    As far as reality TV goes you can forget about it going away. Many, including myself, have long hoped to see the demise of Rap/Hip-Hop. It has not had any originality since the early days and is now little more than sampling of old songs with spoken word mixed in and yet it dominates the sales charts and radio airplay. I would say that reality TV is the same way, with the best still being the original (Cops) and yet the reality tripe they push out these days still gets ratings. I put Hip-Hop, Reality TV and Windows PCs all into the same category of proof that the masses are generally sheople willing to be led wherever their friends, co-workers and advertisers lead them.