It was a cold Thursday evening in New York City, and I just walked into my home around 9 p.m. I hung up my coat, threw a frozen dinner in the microwave for a few minutes, and sat down on the couch to watch TV for a moment - in this case Law & Order SVU. Between getting up to grab my dinner from the microwave, checking email, news and social media, I paid attention to the screen intermittently, drawn in occasionally by loud noises or bright colors.
Compare my behavior to watching your favorite show. It’s Wednesday, five minutes before your show starts. You don’t want to miss the start, so you go to the bathroom and make dinner beforehand. You sit in front of the screen intently, watching every second. You’re not looking at Facebook, all you care about is the content on the screen.
Which viewer is more likely to receive an advertiser’s message? Me or you?
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At TVision we have recruited a panel of opt-in households that have installed infrared sensors on their TVs, allowing us to passively decipher when people are casually watching versus intently paying attention to programming. When we see that Walking Dead was the top-rated show of the week, we know that only tells part of the story. We know that attention matters.
We looked back at primetime, first-airing shows for the full month of February, and found that CBS’s Code Black, A&E’s Nightwatch, and Netflix’s Narcos took top prize for attention on broadcast, cable, and OTT, respectively. You can check out the full list here.
Let’s take a closer look at broadcast:
1. Code Black – CBS
2. Shark Tank – ABC
3. Emerald City – NBC
4. New Girl – Fox
5. Grimm - NBC
We all know that advertisers are buying the opportunity to capture the attention of their future customers. The more attention they capture, the better results they will achieve. Once you look at the list above, the question becomes – how can networks use attention to charge a premium for their ad inventory?
In January, ABC took four of the top five broadcast TV spots. To walk into a conversation with an advertiser and say, “Our primetime shows capture more attention than any other network” is powerful. Measurable attention, seconds of eyes on screen, helps paint a quality picture within a ratings-driven quantity world. This can even go a step further, applying attention data to pod position, position in pod, genre and more.
Another dimension is co-viewing. Anecdotally, we have shown that when people watch TV together they pay more attention to the content. For advertisers, the idea of reaching multiple people during a highly attentive show is like winning $5 on a scratch-off. If that show isn’t top-rated, meaning the price isn’t top dollar, it’s a miracle.
Also: Study: U.S. TV Homes With Netflix Pass Those With DVRs
Lastly, programmers can significantly benefit from investigating what qualities of certain shows generate attention. What makes the top shows able to repeatedly capture attentive viewing? Does the comedic style of New Girl attract millennial solo viewers? Does Shark Tank garner greater attention co-viewing than the NCAA playoffs?
The ability to break down where attention is gained or lost in programming can help networks plan for future series and episodes. In the age of tweets, likes, snaps, and breaking news - a show that can garner an audience’s attention for 30 or 60 minutes is immensely valuable. By incorporating metrics such as attention, networks can redefine what premium content and premium inventory are, leading to better content, optimal rates, and a clearer representation of what the audience truly cares about.
The author is Dan Schiffman, CRO and cofounder of TVision Insights, an attention measurement company. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @TVisionInsights @DanSchiff.
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