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March 20, 2007




I sense you pulling your punches to start a debate. Ok, you got me. I'm in.

We all know what PVRs are doing don't we. Every independent study conducted thus far (ie not by Sky or ITV) has shown that it substantially reduces ad viewing for obvious reasons. Anybody that owns one will tell you this.

The problem of course is that they're going to change fundamentally the commercial TV business model but nobody knows quite what the new model looks like. So in the meantime the likes of Sky are not only trying to say the world hasn't changed (whilst they work out where to place their bets) but in this Phoney War period they are actually trying to get double bubble by saying that people still watch all the ads (therefore ad revenue stays the same) and meanwhile get £10 a month from 1.5 million people for Sky+ subscriptions!

Given we're are talking about the shake-up of a multi-billion pound industry where there will be some serious fortunes won and lost, I wouldn't trust any of the data currently being published. A few BARB numbers the wrong way could cause a revenue and share-price implosion.

I think what is required is a couple of major advertisers like P&G to call the commercial TV channels bluff and say they're not paying the rates any more.


You might think that Guy and maybe I do too, but I wonder what Thinkbox think.


Gosh John, I don't think I rightly know. I'm sure they're all very good and objective people trying their hardest to tell the truth at all times. By the way, who funds Thinkbox again?

Tess Alps

Not dead yet and never will be - but it is changing. What's important is that we stop talking about a death that is not going to happen and start getting ready to embrace all the new opportunities that change will bring.

You and Guy are of course right to be sceptical about all research, but I promise you that Thinkbox wouldn't last very long if we cynically massaged data to come up with the story that would best suit our shareholders.

I could write reams in response but I'll try and confine myself to the main points. Broadcast TV is genuinely very resilient. Our charts show small declines across most audiences since 2004. However, if we had shown 5 or 10 years ago you'd see that we watched slightly more broadcast Tv in 2006 than back then, 10 minutes and 40 minutes more per week respectively.

The biggest driver of the continuing growth in commercial impacts is the growth of commercial TV's share of broadcast telly at the expense of the BBC. This is in no way to criticise the BBC; it's just the inevitable consequence of homes getting one of the three main forms of multi-channel TV: digital terrestrial, cable or satellite. This share growth will continue until at least 2012 when digital switchover will be complete.

But that's just broadcast telly. TV is also growing via new technologies like mobile, internet and IPTV, none of which are measured by BARB yet. TV content is in massive demand and the internet is facilitating this.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean that TV spot advertising is as desired. Let me explain about the PVR data. BARB can measure them, but the Skyview panel is 20,000 homes strong and PVR owners are about 25% of them. It is this data that tells us PVR owners start watching 20 minutes more a day when they get Sky+. Now, we can't independently audit this but Sky have gone on record quoting this statistic. We are trying to investigate why this might be so and early anecdotal findings suggest a) that TV is more enjoyable when they can control their choice and b) people are watching fewer rented and bought DVDs in favout of stuff sitting on their hard disk.

Both BARB, SKY and the London Business School research agree that PVR owners on average still spend about 85% of their viewing to live broadcasting. Of the 15% that is time-shifted they watch nearly 40% of ad-breaks at normal speed and fast forward 60%. But becasue they watch more TV the net effect is that PVR owners end up watching more ads than before they got it. It's definitely counter-intuitive, but we really must be careful not to use research of one I do x, so everyone must do x) in some of these emerging trends.

But people do like good TV ads, are happy to watch them, stop and rewind them to watch again on their PVR and search for them on Youtube. We just have to make all our TV ads brilliant which of course is a doddle!

I think people appreciate the rapid growth of the internet and assume wrongly that this is displacing TV time. The truth is that time spent on the internet, as shown by the IPA's Touchpoints survey is much more during the day, mostly on email, search or buying stuff. Young people do spend less time watching broadcast TV, but then they always have and always will. So as marketing professionals we can love TV *and* the internet and in fact they are fantastically complementary in many ways.

Much more could be said but I think I should stop now!

John Dodds

I wouldn't go as far as to say that if something seems counter intuitive then it's probably wrong, but I would suggest that counter-intuitive results need to be looked at closely.

Tess tells us that nearly 40% of time-shifted ad breaks are watched at normal speed. The cynic in me wonders how much of that is due to viewers who aren't aware that they can fast forward and more seriously whether that proprotion will remain that high over time?

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