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Argument Over Commercial Ratings May Be Missing the Point

Posted by: David Kiley on November 6, 2006

Nielsen, TV broadcasters, cable networks and advertisers continue to haggle over a system they all can agree on to measure the audiences of TV commercials in the age of digital-video-recorders and time-shifted TV watching.

The main issue and bone of contention is how to account for and value viewers who watch a program and its commercials several days after the program has aired live. Huh? That’s what your worried about?

How about whether the ad was watched at all. I admit this is anecdotal, but as I now watch about 75% of the TV programming in my life on a time-shifted basis, I find that I watch the ads only in fast-forward mode. The question advertisers will have to answer with TV stations and Nielsen is: How much does this viewing count? How much is it worth?

Can my use of a DVR be so unique? My favorite viewing has become the Sunday football game. I subscribe to DirecTV and bought the NFL package so I can watch the NY Giants now that I live in Michigan. I tape the game, which usually last 3.5 hours, and play it back on my own time. This usually takes one hour. The time shifting and shortening is invaluable. No huddles. No ads. No half-time. No waiting for a coach’s challenge to a ref’s call. Watching the game this way allows me to spend Sunday afternoons with my family, and eat my football cake too.

I admit that while I am fwding through the ads, half-time, etc., I am taking in something of the brand messages and promotions for the network’s programming. But I’m hard pressed to say what its worth. A day later, having watched the ads without sound and at stepped up speeds, the only one I recall is an ad hawking a promotion for consumers to submit their own Super Bowl ad concept. Isn’t that ironic?

If I chose to watch an ad in a program I recorded three or four days after I recorded it at normal play-speed, it wouldn’t be worth less than it would had I watched it live…unless the ad was for a one-day sale the next day…it would be a miracle that I watched it at all. Maybe Nielsen, the Nets and advertisers should pay more attention to that.



News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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