We actually watch TV commercials, um, ad execs say

Worried about audience engagement and keeping TV viewers around for those pesky ads that pay the bills?

Well, there's some good news from the Council for Research Excellence that today released a report that says the majority of viewers watching live TV actually--gasp!-don't change the channel or leave the room when ads roll.

That's a major reversal of the conventional wisdom that says channel surfers hit their "last" button the moment the screen goes black into a commercial break.

In fact, the CRE's Video Consumer Mapping study (which, in the interest of full disclosure, is made up of senior execs in the media and advertising industry: grain of salt alert) says ads and program promotions reach 85 percent of adults daily. It also said:

  • 11 percent of viewers change channels during the four minutes of TV programming before the commercial break
  • 14 percent change channels during commercials
  • 13 percent change channels in the four-minute period after programming returns
  • Multi-tasking was found to accompany about 45 percent of all media use.

"Do viewers actually pay attention during commercial breaks?" asked Laura Cowan, vice president and media director of RJC Advertising and chairperson of the CRE's Media Consumption & Engagement (MC&E) Committee. "For years, media professionals have been wrestling with this question - and they've been debating the merits of audience data whether they are based on written diaries or on electronic measurement devices that require manual user interaction. This new data, the result of actually ‘embedding' observers with a statistically significant number of TV viewers, is a major development in terms of learning what people watch and how they watch it."

The VCM study, conducted throughout 2008 by researchers from Ball State University and Sequent Partners, was the first ever to involve the in-person, computer-assisted observation of the media consumption habits of 376 adults. All told, the VCM study -- the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted -- generated data covering more than three-quarters of a million minutes or a total of 752 observed days.

For more:
- see this release

Related articles:
Study finds online video use much lower than reported
Nielsen sets 'private' meeting on how to measure online TV viewing

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