You’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