Time-shifting technology seldom used - research

The use of television 'on demand' services has been increasing, however viewers are still watching traditional 'live' TV ... and with it TV advertisements, a new report shows.

Colmar Brunton research commissioned by TVNZ showed seven out of 10 households had the ability to 'time-shift' - watching television shows outside of their scheduled programming time - through devices including Apple TV, MySky, Freeview, DVD recorders and other methods. However, only one out of 10 households exclusively used the technology, the results showed.

The study found 85 per cent of viewers watched live TV, 42 per cent watched it delayed, and 37 per cent used on-demand services.

TV3 spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer said time-shifted viewing still formed a small percentage of total viewing, and in mature markets like the UK the amount of time-shifted viewing was now plateauing.

The most recent research showed 93 per cent of television in New Zealand was watched live, she said.

"Video on demand catch-up viewing is important to our viewers but international research shows it's still largely used for catch-up, not as a replacement for watching television live.

"In some ways, you could say we are coming into another golden age of television; it's just not television as we know it."

TVNZ spokeswoman Georgie Hills said the research was conducted by measuring whether viewers recalled specific advertisements.

"The study was quite unique in that they were able to say that people may have the ability skip ads or fast forward through ads, but they're not tending to do that, and even when they're watching the ads, however engaged they are, they're still noticing specific advertisements."

Of those who time-shifted, 54 per cent noticed advertisements while fast-forwarding and 34 per cent said they watched the ads.

Ms Hills said when personal video recorders arrived on the scene, television executives were biting their nails nervously.

"But this study backs up international studies which shows that even though we can, we don't - the bulk of TV is still watched live."

TVNZ customer insight manager Cat Groombridge said the research was conducted to try to ascertain whether the ability to 'time-shift' posed a threat to traditional 30 second television commercials.

While the use of TVNZ on-demand services was growing in "huge numbers", demand for advertising in the same medium was experiencing the same increase, Ms Groombridge said.

A positive side of the research for the State-owned broadcaster was that television's traditional revenue streams were not affected by the change in viewing behaviour, she said.

Advertising commentator Martin Gillman said he was skeptical about the report's findings as they were clearly published with TVNZ's self-interests at heart.

Television revenue streams were going in the opposite direction to that of newspapers and were increasingly coming out of viewers' pockets through subscriptions services, he said.

"Newspapers have gone from mixed funding from the reader and the advertiser, and now they're giving away their product for nothing.

"There was a time, not that long ago, when 100 per cent of television was paid for by advertising, now it's only about 40 per cent.

"Sky revenue is nearly 50 per cent larger than the whole of the rest of the TV market - and that's all subscription driven."

However, on demand advertising was selling for a "massive premium" due to viewers' inability to fast-forward through the ads, Mr Gillman said.

TVNZ's TV2 Plus One channel is due to air on September 1, controversially replacing TVNZ's youth channel 'U'.

- By Brendan Manning of APNZ

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