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Category: Meg James

CBS outlines post-CEO production deal with Leslie Moonves

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CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves has nearly three years remaining on his employment contract, and after that, he will be entitled to a lucrative CBS-financed television and movie production deal.

CBS and Moonves this week signed an agreement that sketches out Moonves' tentative producer agreement, according to a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The proposed arrangement borrows from a particularly rich production deal that former News Corp. President Peter Chernin exercised when he left the executive suite of Fox in 2009. Last week, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners invested $200 million in Chernin's company -- demonstrating the potential value of a company headed by one of the biggest names in the entertainment business.

But, unlike Chernin, Moonves may choose not to trade in his executive stripes to run a production company. The filing did not rule out the possibility that Moonves, 62, could extend his employment agreement with CBS, keeping him at the CEO controls beyond the current February 2015 expiration of his contract.

Last year, Moonves received compensation of $69.9 million for his CEO role, making him the highest-compensated executive in Hollywood.

Under the proposed contract, Moonves could trigger the production deal once he steps down. CBS would be required to finance the enterprise for at least four years and invest as much as $3 million a year to cover the operation's overhead for staffing and a development fund to buy projects.

CBS would be obligated to buy at least three TV series projects over the life of the deal. CBS would have to pay Moonves license fees for TV shows equal to the highest amount paid to other producers who do business with the network or with CBS Studios.

CBS also would be required to pay Moonves a guaranteed fee of $1.5 million a year.

"This fixed fee is offset and reduced dollar for dollar by all executive producing fees earned for shows ordered from Mr. Moonves," the agreement states. "Mr. Moonves will earn fees for each hour and half hour scripted series and for each alternative series that are accepted by CBS, subject to pre-defined terms and at rates generally consistent with those paid to other top producers with Mr. Moonves’ skill, experience and record of success."

CBS would also be required to pay Moonves a "penalty fee" if the network failed to order the agreed-upon number of TV shows.  Chernin's agreement with Fox contains a similar provision. 

Under the terms of the deal, CBS has a first look at all of his movie projects. If CBS gave its blessing to a movie, Moonves would receive a producer fee, plus "certain contingent compensation if, and only if, the film achieves profitability." He would be entitled to the same profit-sharing agreements that the company's current CBS Films extends to other producers.

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Photo: Leslie Moonves, right, president and chief executive of CBS Corp. at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention in 2011. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

Worries linger about Nickelodeon's ratings slump

Nickelodeon's audience levels have fallen nearly 30% this season
Wall Street analysts peppered Viacom management Thursday with questions about the mysterious ratings slump at the company's premier children's television network Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon's audience levels have fallen nearly 30% this season, prompting much speculation about the reasons behind the troubling drop. The issue is far from child's play. Nickelodeon is one of the most valuable channels in television as well as within the Viacom universe. 

Some analysts have theorized that the weak ratings could be attributed to shifts in viewing behavior. More children are watching Nickelodeon shows on demand through Netflix and Amazon.com digital streaming services, rather than watching the channel. 

Earlier this week, Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes added his support to that theory, noting that his company's Cartoon Network, which competes with Nickelodeon, doesn't have that issue. In fact, Cartoon Network's ratings were up 14%.

 "We think part of the reason is that we don't have our programs sitting on an SVOD [subscription video-on-demand service] where parents can park their kids," Bewkes told analysts during Time Warner's earnings call Wednesday. "Obviously, that's taking some viewing away from some of the other animated channels."

Viacom executives pooh-poohed the theory.

"Netflix is present in less than a quarter of television households, and since we get the streaming data on our content, I can tell you that the time spent on Nickelodeon content on Netflix is approximately 2% of the time spent on our Nickelodeon channel," Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman told analysts Thursday during his company's second-quarter earnings call.

"It would have a minimal impact here," Dauman said.

Instead, Viacom traces much of the ratings nosedive to a September change in the composition of the audience panel that Nielsen uses to derive its ratings. New participants in the Nielsen panel apparently watch less Nickelodeon than those they replaced.

Still, analysts are concerned.

"Nickelodeon has fallen to levels that you've never seen before," said one prominent analyst, Michael Nathanson of Nomura Securities, observed during Viacom's call. 

Nickelodeon's problems failed to dent investors' enthusiasm for Viacom's stock. The company's widely traded B-shares closed Thursday at $49.02 a share, up $1.59 a share.  Viacom reported a profit increase of 56% over the year-earlier period.  Revenue was up 2% to $3.33 billion.  

"We're going to focus on ways in which we can affect the Nickelodeon brand positively," Dauman told analysts before the opening bell. "Our pipeline is extremely strong. We're developing more new [episodes] of our popular series and more exciting new series. And of course, we're particularly excited about the revival of the [Teenage Ninja] Turtles franchise."

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Photo:  A scene from an older episode of "SpongeBob SquarePants." Credit:  Nickelodeon 

Viacom profit up 56%, boosted by higher cable fees

 EddieMurphyAThousandWords
Viacom Inc.'s second-quarter profit soared 56%, thanks to higher fees from pay-television operators and lower expenses at the company's Paramount Pictures movie studio.

For the quarter ended March 31, Viacom earned $585 million, or $1.07 per share, up from $376 million, or 63 cents a share, in the same period in 2011. Revenue grew 2% to $3.33 billion.

"Across our divisions we sharpened our focus on execution and efficiency while continuing to invest in programming that connects with audiences worldwide," Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman told analysts in a Thursday morning conference call.  "Distribution continues to be a strong and steady driver for Viacom."

The New York-based media company's earnings exceeded analysts' estimates while revenue was largely within expectations. The company, controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, also spent about $700 million during the quarter to repurchase 14.7 million shares.

The bulk of the company's earnings came from its Media Networks unit, which includes cable channels MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, VH1 and TV Land.  Revenue generated by cable channels grew 5% to $2.2 billion, driven by an increase in affiliate fees paid by cable and satellite television operators.  Affiliate fee revenue was up 17%. 

Media networks' operating income climbed 11% to $893 million. Domestic advertising revenue inched up 1%, while foreign advertising revenue remained flat. 

"We are seeing encouraging signs of a strengthening ad market," Dauman noted.

At the Los Angeles-based Paramount Pictures, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, revenue dropped 5% to $1.17 billion.  The company attributed the lower revenue to a "less widely distributed mix of releases during the quarter," which included the highly profitable "The Devil Inside" and DreamWorks Pictures'  Eddie Murphy vehicle, "A Thousand Words," which flopped.

Theatrical revenue was down 19% to $326 million for the quarter.  The division was helped during the quarter by carry-over receipts from "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," with Tom Cruise, which was released in the previous quarter.

Operating income at the film studio nearly tripled to $115 million, up from $39 million in the year-earlier period. The company said the studio's higher margin came from lower distribution costs.

"We are being disciplined in managing our expenses," Chief Operating Officer Thomas Dooley told the analysts.  

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Photo:  Eddie Murphy plays a cad named Jack in the DreamWorks comedy "A Thousand Words," released during the first quarter by Paramount Pictures.   Credit: Bruce McBroom / DreamWorks Pictures

 

Comcast continues to rally in FCC dispute with Tennis Channel

Tennis channel
Cable giant Comcast Corp. appears to be headed for a tie-breaker in its long-running dispute with the small, independently owned Tennis Channel.

In December, a Federal Communications Commission administrative judge issued a tentative ruling that Comcast had discriminated against the Tennis Channel by putting it at a competitive disadvantage.

After winning that ruling, the Santa Monica network demanded that Comcast immediately add the channel to Comcast's most widely distributed programming package. The move, which Comcast has been resisting, would make Tennis Channel available to nearly all of Comcast's 22 million cable subscribers. 

But on Wednesday the FCC general counsel said that the full FCC would decide the matter and that Comcast was not required to move Tennis Channel at this time.

The dispute, which began nearly three years ago, centers on Comcast's refusal to move the Tennis Channel to a less exclusive environment.

The Philadelphia company has said it placed the Tennis Channel in the sports tier as part of an agreement between the two companies when Comcast agreed to provide carriage.  However, Comcast appeared to run afoul of the rules because it offers the sports channels that it owns, the Golf Channel and NBC Sports (formerly known as Versus), in the basic programming package.

The Tennis Channel has argued that its location unfairly limits its revenue potential because channels receive fees from cable operators based on number of subscribers. 

If Comcast loses the case, it would be the first time that a cable operator was found in violation of federal anti-discrimination program carriage rules, which were established by the agency in 1993. Comcast lost a similar dispute Wednesday, this one with Bloomberg. 

On Wednesday, the FCC General Counsel Austin C. Schlick said the full commission should settle the Tennis Channel score.  It was not clear when the commission would make the final call. 

"The interim stay granted by the Office of General Counsel regarding the Tennis Channel is a welcome development, and we hope the full commission will follow suit," Comcast said in a statement. "There were procedural and substantive flaws in the [administrative judge's] decision, and we continue to believe it should not be upheld."

For its part, the Tennis Channel said the interim stay didn't change the administrative judge's findings. Instead, it was "simply a continuation of the status quo while the commission decides the procedural question.... We are pleased that the commission continues to move forward in resolving this dispute." 

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-- Meg James

Photo: Tennis Channel's Bill Macatee and Martina Navratilova, center, interview Ana Ivanovic. Credit: Fred Mullane 

Sumner Redstone at Global Conference: "Take risks"

Sumner Redstone

Sumner Redstone has a regret.

His father, Michael “Mickey” Redstone, didn’t live to see his son’s unqualified success in the business world. Sumner Redstone -- who controls two of the world’s preeminent media companies, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. -- has memories of his father that were etched during the Depression when the family lived in a West Boston tenement. 

 “I can remember him carrying rolls of linoleum on his back,” Redstone said Wednesday during an appearance at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills.  “He believed in hard work.  He had to work hard, and I had to work hard.” 

The title of the Global Conference session was “What it Means to be an Entrepreneur: A conversation with Sumner Redstone.” Redstone was interviewed by Michael Milken, and the two men hadn’t gotten too far into their dialogue when Redstone groused that more than a quarter of a century ago, Milken charged him “an extra quarter-percent interest” on a loan that Redstone took out to begin building his empire.  

Redstone still seemed peeved. “I’ve been paying for it ever since,” Milken lamented.

The legacy of Redstone -- who is three weeks shy of his 89th birthday --- has been written by many, including by Redstone himself. And, on Wednesday, Redstone told his story again to a standing room crowd in a small conference room at the Beverly Hilton. 

The secret to success, the mogul said, was: “You have to be in control of your destiny.  You can’t work for anyone else.  It’s not about money, it’s about winning.  You have to have a passion to win.”  (That’s also the title of Redstone’s 2001 autobiography.)

“I’ve taken some perilous risks. But I never took them unless I was confident that the rewards far outweighed the risk,” Redstone said.   

Perhaps his biggest risk was the hostile corporate take-over, in 1987, of Viacom Inc., then a cable television company with some puny channels named MTV and Nickelodeon.  Investment bankers wanted Redstone to sell the channels to pay down debt. Redstone refused.

Now MTV and Nickelodeon are Viacom's financial engines.

“My father, he always thought I was taking too big of a risk on Viacom.  He said, 'You’re betting your life on Viacom.'  I told him that I wanted to,” Redstone told the group.  “Unfortunately, he never lived to see the success of Viacom.”

Viacom now is valued at $27 billion. (CBS, Redstone's other company, has a $22-billion market cap.)

“I saw that content was king; I coined that phrase decades ago,” Redstone told Milken and the group, which included CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves; Mel Karmazin, chief executive of Sirius XM Radio Inc. and former chief operating officer of Viacom; CBS board member Arnold Kopelson; movie producer Robert Evans; music producer Quincy Jones; and former CBS personality Mary Hart. 

Milken asked Redstone how he judged talent in the executive suite, although Milken didn’t mention the gallery of executives that Redstone, over the years, booted to the curb (including Karmazin in 2004). 

Milken did mention one piece of talent.  Tom Cruise, one of the most bankable stars ever for Viacom’s movie studio, Paramount Pictures, was dismissed by Redstone in 2006.  “His behavior was terrible; he was jumping on couches,” Redstone said. “Women hated him, a lot of people said they would never come to see another one of his movies. And he made $10 million on the Paramount lot for doing nothing!”

But a few years later, Redstone said, Cruise told him that he wanted to make pictures for Paramount again. Redstone said he said yes, but also told Cruise, “You won’t get the same deal.”

“Today he’s one of my best friends,” Redstone said. “I’ve been for dinner to the house that he shares with his wife, Katie. And today, 'Mission Impossible' is grossing more than any other 'Mission Impossible' before it.  It's on track to gross $700 million. People came back to the movies to see him.” 

These days, Redstone has trouble getting around so he doesn't get out as much as he used to.  But he said he watches a lot of golf on TV (“Tiger [Woods] will never make it again. He’s done,” Redstone predicted).  Redstone also oversees his tanks full of exotic fish in his Beverly Park home.  

“When you look at the fish, you relax.  When you look at the fish, your blood pressure goes down,” Redstone said, adding that despite being worth nearly $4.5 billion, he still has stress in his life.

Milken and Redstone often discuss healthy diets, Milken said. 

“I eat and drink every antioxidant known to man, and I also drink red wine every night," Redstone said "It, fortunately, prevents aging so it is of particular interest to me.”

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Photo: Sumner Redstone poses with his Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

 

 

Comcast profit jumps 30%, with mixed results at NBCUniversal

ComcastTrucks
Comcast Corp.'s earnings jumped nearly 30% in its first quarter as more customers signed up for high-speed Internet service.  But the cable Goliath also showed strength in some an unexpected quarters: the long-lagging NBC broadcast unit and Universal Pictures, which released two hit movies, including "The Lorax."

For the quarter ended March 31, the Philadelphia-based company said its net income grew to $1.22 billion, or 45 cents per share, from $943 million, or 34 cents per share, from the year-earlier period.

Comcast generated consolidated revenue of $14.88 billion -- an increase of 23%.

"I'm really pleased with our start in 2012," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said in a Wednesday  morning conference call with analysts.  "Cable had another outstanding quarter.... We are starting to make some progress in broadcast."

NBCUniversal revenue was up 18% to $5.5 billion, in large part because the NBC broadcast network raked in $259 million in Super Bowl advertising revenue. (Excluding the Super Bowl, revenue at NBCUniversal was up 12.4%).

Roberts reminded analysts that NBCUniversal results would be volatile because of the hit-and-miss nature of movie box office and higher television programming costs. Comcast has been spending more on programming to try to lift the peacock network to profitability.

Operating cash flow at NBCUniversal was up 34.3% to $813 million compared to the first quarter of 2011.  In terms of revenue, NBCUniversal cable networks generated $2.1 billion in revenue versus $2 billion in the year-earlier period.  The NBC broadcast unit pulled in $1.85 billion in revenue (including the Super Bowl) compared to $1.35 billion in the year-earlier period. Film entertainment revenue swelled to $1.19 billion from $975 million in 2011. Theme parks generated $412 million, up from $390 million.

However, the company's operating cash flow margins were lower at cable networks due to higher programming and production costs, including those for NBA basketball. The broadcast unit posted an operating cash flow loss of $10 million, reflecting higher programming costs and higher marketing expenses to support the launch of mid-season shows, including "Smash."

"We're starting to make some progress but there is a long way to go," NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke told analysts. "And in film, we have a much stronger slate this year." Among Universal's upcoming film titles are the big budget action film "Battleship," the dark fairy tale "Snow White and the Huntsman," and a new iteration of the successful "Bourne" series.

Comcast is the nation's largest cable television and high-speed Internet provider. It holds a 51% controlling interest in NBCUniversal. 

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Photo: Comcast Cable company trucks in Southern California / Credit:  Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times.

Nielsen study finds 'second screen' viewing enhances TV experience

  TVscreenssatAtwaterVillageBestBuy

When viewers watch a TV program with a tablet device, they tend to check their email, hunt for sports scores or seek additional information about the show or a commercial they were watching on the big screen.

A new report by Nielsen Co., released Friday, underscores what network television researchers have been preaching for more than a year: that "second screen viewing" appears to augment the TV viewing experience rather than steal away viewers.

Nielsen's State of the Media: Advertising & Audiences report found that men, when watching TV and using a tablet simultaneously, were more likely than women to look for information related to a TV program they were watching (39% versus 34%). Women were more inclined to seek information related to a television commercial  (24% versus 21%).

Not surprisingly, teenagers with tablets were far more apt to visit a social media site while watching TV than were older baby boomers and seniors (62% versus 33%). 

The report also found cultural differences in TV watching and the use of digital video recorders. Nielsen said that white TV viewers use digital video recorders on a daily basis twice as much as any other group, while Asian Americans appear to spend a higher proportion of their overall TV time watching their previously recorded programs.

Adults age 25 to 54 appear to be heavily influenced by advertising. Nielsen said that demographic group was 23% more likely than the average U.S. Internet user to follow a brand through social networking sites, and 29% more likely to purchase a product online that had been featured on TV.

Finally, teenagers used a game console for eight minutes a night, on average -- more than twice as much as the general TV population.

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-- Meg James

Photo:  Klarysa Clark, a teenager from Eagle Rock, checks out a 3-D television at the Atwater Village Best Buy in Los Angeles in June 2010.  Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Hulu owners to buy Providence Equity's stake for $200 million

Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar

Providence Equity Partners is selling its stake in online video service Hulu for about $200 million, according to people familiar with the situation.

The move, first reported by Bloomberg News, is expected to give at least two of Hulu's media company owners -- News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. -- a greater ownership stake in the rapidly growing online service. 

The 5-year-old service now has more than 2 million paid subscribers to its Hulu Plus offering, and about 38 million visitors a month to its free site, which offers catch-up episodes of such popular television shows as "Glee," "Revenge," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." 

The buy-out of the private equity firm would resolve some of the tensions that have been simmering for more a year. The stakeholders have long argued about Hulu's direction, priorities and monetization strategy.  Nine months ago, the partners considered selling Hulu, but the media companies opted not to shed the venture because they did not want to lose control of the online distribution of their valuable content.

All the while, the Rhode Island-based Providence Equity made it clear that it was increasingly interested in cashing out its stake.

People close to the situation, who asked not to be identified because no sales deal has been finalized, said the media companies have a "hand-shake agreement" to pay Providence Equity about $200 million for its 10% stake.  However, these people said, the overall valuation of Hulu would be less than $2 billion. The partners instead agreed to pay Providence a premium on its investment.

The approximately $200 million payment would allow Providence Equity to double its investment. The firm contributed $100 million in 2007 to help founding companies NBCUniversal and News Corp. launch Hulu. Disney came aboard as a partner in 2009.

Hulu's ownership structure has been complicated by NBCUniversal's equity stake.  Although the media company helped launch Hulu, NBCUniversal's new controlling owner -- Comcast Corp. -- agreed to give up NBCUniversal's seats on the Hulu board and any voice in the management of Hulu as part of a 2011 settlement with federal government. The Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission, government agencies that reviewed Comcast's takeover of NBCUniversal, were concerned that Comcast might use its interest in Hulu to stymie the development of an online video service that competes with Comcast's core business of providing bundles of television channels to consumers. 

The two managing partners -- News Corp. and Disney -- have not determined whether to use cash on hand to buy out Providence, thereby increasing their stakes in Hulu, or bring in more private money, according to one person close to the situation.

The agreement being worked out also would allow the vesting of some shares held by Hulu's chief executive, Jason Kilar, and other ranking members of management. However, one person close to Hulu said that Kilar is expected to stay on, at least in the short term, to run the company.

Both Hulu and Providence Equity declined to comment.

In an interesting twist, the news comes in the same week that Providence announced it would invest $200 million in Peter Chernin's entertainment company, The Chernin Group.  Chernin was one of the architects of Hulu, when he was president of News Corp., and he brokered the deal to include Providence Equity in the ownership structure. In addition, Chernin was named a senior advisor to Providence Equity.

Chernin, through a spokeswoman, declined comment.

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Photo: Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar at the company's Santa Monica headquarters in July 2010.  Credit:  Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Top Comcast executives take a pay cut in 2011

BrianRobertsComcastCEO

Comcast Corp.’s highest-paid executives — Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke — experienced compensation deflation last year.

Roberts’ pay package shrank 13.3% in 2011 to $26.9 million. That included a performance-based cash bonus of $5.5 million for the 52-year-old executive.

Meanwhile, Burke’s compensation dropped a whopping 32% to $23.7 million, which included a performance bonus of $6.7 million. The 53-year-old executive’s amount fell dramatically in 2011 as it was the first time in three years that he did not collect a signing bonus.

Burke, who took over management of NBCUniversal last year when Comcast acquired controlling interest in the company, received bonuses of about $10 million in both 2009 and 2010 for extending his contract.

The compensation, disclosed Friday in a proxy filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, put the managers of the Philadelphia-based cable and entertainment giant in the middle rungs of corporate pay across big media conglomerates.

By comparison, CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves received a package valued at $69.9 million last year, Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav received $52.4 million; Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman captured $43 million, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger collected $31.4 million, and Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes got $25.9 million. SteveBurkeNBCUniversalChief

Three years ago, Comcast’s top executives agreed to a four-year freeze in their base salary. Roberts’ base salary was $2.8 million; Burke’s was $2.24 million.

The top Comcast executives could have received fatter packages last year. The company achieved substantial growth in revenue and free cash flow, but its top executives elected to bring their performance base bonus calculations more in line with how their underlings are paid — and the Comcast board's compensation committee agreed.

In its proxy, Comcast said its operating management’s “cash bonuses are based primarily on business unit operating metrics rather than consolidated financial performance.”

Chief Financial Officer Michael J. Angelakis last year received a total package of $21.9 million, which was a 4% decline from his 2010 compensation. In contrast, Executive Vice President David L. Cohen accepted more stock and other bonuses which boosted his take 19% to $15.1 million.

Comcast Cable Communications Chief Executive Neil Smit collected $18.5 million in 2011, including a $3-million cash performance bonus. This was the first time that Comcast was required to disclose Smit’s earnings. Smit joined Comcast two years ago but he did not become a top corporate officer until last year when he was named chief executive officer of Comcast Cable.

And Ralph J. Roberts, the 92-year-old co-founder of the cable company, collected his customary $1-a-year salary.

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— Meg James

Top photo: Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts in 2007. Credit: George Widman / Associated Press.  Bottom right: NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke in 2010. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press.

Nielsen study finds that dramas are recorded at higher rates

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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