While admitting that he's surprised at the impact that SVOD platforms like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Hulu have had on viewership for linear cable, NBCUniversal (NASDAQ: CMCSA) CEO Steve Burke said time-shifting using DVRs is still having a bigger effect on traditional television.
"Netflix has created a wonderful business and a great delivery mechanism," he said to an audience at CES in Las Vegas Thursday, in a one-on-one interview with media business guru Michael Kassan. "And while they are obviously affecting ratings at some level, I think time-shifting and DVRs are more impactful."
The once ubiquitous DVR discussion has taken a back seat amid the fast growth of SVOD. But the devices are having a bigger impact than ever on live TV consumption.
Nielsen released data over the fall that suggested that for a hit series such as Fox's Empire, more than 20 percent of the audience time shifts its viewing 48 hours or more from the original airing.
Still, Burke conceded that he and some of his peers were taken about by the impact of SVOD, noting, "I thought cable entertainment ratings were going to be stronger than they are. Cable entertainment ratings are weaker than they were just two or three years ago, and that's because all the alternatives are getting better and better.
"If you carry a show on cable that's a rerun, it's hard to maintain the same ratings when you have [so many other] great choices," Burke added.
Meanwhile, he also put in a broader plug for TV advertising, as the industry battles upstart digital platforms for market share. "There's this perception among some advertisers that advertising on digital is this wonderful, shiny new thing that's better," he said. "The reality is that if you want to reach millions and millions of people, if you're launching a new product or repositioning a brand, television is a fantastic way to do it. With digital, not only can you not get the reach you get with television, but also people don't pay attention to the ads the way they do on television, and you don't get the emotional attachment that you get from great television campaigns."
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