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Nielsen study finds that dramas are recorded at higher rates

April 19, 2012 |  7:00 am

NielsenTelevisionStudy

In a new study of television audience trends, ratings giant Nielsen found that viewers recorded and watched scripted dramas at a much higher rate than sitcoms, sports and reality shows.

Hourlong dramas accounted for 58% of time-shifted viewing, according to Nielsen's Advertising & Audiences Report released Thursday. Comedies made up 16%, reality shows accounted for 14%, sports represented 8% and news, 4%.

Network executives are closely monitoring audience trends now that more than 40% of all TV households in the U.S. are equipped with digital video recorders.  Many viewers fast-forward through the commercials, which have long generated the dollars that support the high cost of television production.

The Nielsen report found that nearly 43% of people who digitally record shows watch the episode the same day. Nearly 88% of people who recorded a program watched it within three days. 

The finding is significant because advertisers currently pay the networks for viewers who record and watch an episode within that three-day window. Some network executives are lobbying advertisers to extend the period to seven days.

Nielsen said that dramas drew 41% of the viewers in prime time and generated 35% of the television advertising dollars. Reality shows, once red-hot, have cooled slightly. In 2011, they attracted 15.5% of the prime-time audience, down from 17.4% in 2009.  Meanwhile, sit-coms have become more popular.

Last year, $72 billion was spent on TV advertising in the U.S., with $14 billion allocated for the five leading prime-time genres: dramas, comedies, sports, news and reality shows.

Advertisers spent $4.1 billion last year in prime-time sports, which accounted for 29% of the total. 

And not surprisingly, more than half the product placements on the major networks during prime time occurred in reality shows (4,664 occurrences).

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U.S. advertising spending totaled $144 billion in 2011

-- Meg James

Graphic: Advertising and audience trends in prime time.  Credit:  Nielsen

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