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Digital’s Flair for the Dramatic: How Program Genres Perform Beyond Traditional Viewing

3 minute read | March 2019

A lot has been said about the new digital revolution that consumers are reveling in. After all, this new wherever, whenever world has given them more options to connect with content on their terms and on their schedules.

We know that while linear TV—as well as the TV glass itself—maintains a strong relevance in the media industry and among viewers seeking the best way to view premium content, marketers and programming decision makers have additional opportunities to connect with these consumers beyond the traditional means via new platforms and devices.

But the industry has been hard pressed to put metrics around this “digital addition”…until now, that is.

A recent Nielsen study that leveraged Total Content Ratings did just that. It uncovered the actual lifts that digital platforms give to select genres of programming and found that certain types of shows drive more pronounced lifts beyond the linear airing by way of digital contribution from  connected devices, computers and mobile devices.

Specifically, when looking at these lifts, the study focused on daily viewing over a typical month on live TV, DVRs and set-top-box video on-demand (VOD) sources over 312 different programs in a variety of genres. It also did the same for connected-device VOD (such as a Roku device), computer and mobile viewing to see which program types drove the most digital lift among different age demographics.

So which genres drove the highest digital lifts beyond the linear airings?

The study found that cable dramas—which saw a 9% lift in viewing—actually spoke to viewers no matter where or how they watched digitally. On broadcast network programming, sitcoms and reality shows each saw an 8% increase. Even the genre with the lowest lift, comedy talk shows, saw a 1% lift, which is nothing to laugh at, considering the amount of devoted viewers tuning in nightly.

If you’re looking for a whodunit in terms of powering these digital lifts of cable dramas, the lead “actors” are consumers 18-24. In fact, cable dramas see a 22% lift in viewing from digital sources among this age group. When looking at broadcast sitcoms, the lift in the 18-24 demo is even more pronounced at 27%.

To that end, the analysis found that the older the demographic group is, the less the contribution lift on digital devices is. This follows a similar pattern regardless of genre and speaks to the adoption and use of the technology itself perhaps.

Beyond the lifts that digital viewing gives above the linear airing, the study also took a deep dive into the actual viewing contribution that these relatively nascent ways to view provide the programming genres.

It found that among all people (persons 2 and older) for the episodes looked at, 64% of viewing done to cable dramas was non-live via a DVR/VOD or digitally on a computer, mobile or connected device VOD. This genre was the highest in digital contribution, followed by broadcast crime dramas (56%), cable reality shows (52%) and broadcast sitcoms (49%). Comedy-based talk shows—often dealing in topical and timely subject matter—held the lion’s share of live viewing at 80%.

For brands, marketers or networks trying to understand the viewing behavior of their viewing constituency, knowing what platforms—and with whom—their content resonates with is not an option, but a business imperative. Uncovering these insights are critical to understanding the current landscape and can help determine the most efficient ways for the industry to actualize and optimize omnichannel strategies and effectively drive ROI.

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