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Nielsen Crunches Commercial Numbers

More people viewed the commercials during three days of DVR playback of The Office – compared to the show’s live broadcast – than any other primetime broadcast program, according to Nielsen Media Research. The findings (based on data collected the week of April 30, 2007) are part of new commercial-minute ratings data that Nielsen began supplying networks this morning.

The data will include six streams for national commercial minutes: live, live-plus-same-day and live-plus-one, two, three and seven-days.

During three days of playback, The Office had the highest percentage of people watching its commercials at 108 percent. Fox’s Family Guy, and Bones, The CW’s Smallville and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy round out the top five in viewing of commercials over three days of DVR playback.

What Nielsen didn’t supply was hard data on how many viewers are skipping the commercials during playback.

"I think that some people would say that there is complete commercial avoidance," says Pat McDonough, SVP Policy, Planning & Analysis for Nielsen.

"(The data) is clearly saying there is value to some of the playback. And there is clearly evidence of commercial avoidance and we can measure it and clients are looking at it and placing a value on it. What this allows us to do is fine tune those value judgment that everybody was making all along."

With about 17 percent of households with DVR capability, Nielsen estimates that 10 percent of broadcast primetime viewing is now done via playback. Among households with DVRs, delayed viewing is 42 percent.

DVR viewing is one of the main sticking points in the upfront negotiations with networks asking advertisers to pony up for at least some viewing on DVRs as the number of households with DVR capability continues to grow. Advertisers have balked at paying for delayed viewing. But this year, many in the industry expect a consensus to be reached at live-plus-three.

However, movie studios, which make Thursday night the biggest money maker for networks, as they unspool promos for the weekend’s opening fare, will continue to hold out for live-only. At a time when it has never been more important to draw audiences to movies for their opening weekend, movie ads are much less valuable to the studios when viewed on DVRs after that weekend has passed.

The new commercial minute ratings aren’t expected to have a major impact on the current upfront negotiations. But the new data gives both sides more information – and consequently more (or less) leverage – in an increasingly shifting and fragmented market.