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NBCU Cable Joins Delayed Viewing Ratings Bandwagon

TCA 2015: Bravo, E! and USA are among group’s many networks to adopt L+3 reporting

The war against the fall of live viewing heats up as the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment group has declared that it will be shifting its ratings reports to L+3 (Live plus three days) data, with the exception of live sports/entertainment, specials and event programming.

Those networks include Bravo Media, E! Entertainment, Esquire Network, Oxygen Media, Sprout, Syfy and USA Network.

“Increasingly, Live+3 metrics are a more accurate reflection of the performance, appeal and reach of our networks’ original programs,” said NBCU Cable Entertainment’s Brand Strategy executive vice president Liz Mahaffey in a statment. “Considering ever-growing use of DVR, VOD, digital and other non-linear viewing options, L+SD is merely a chapter in a much larger and more diverse ratings story.”

Over the past 12 months, NBCU reports that its series have seen significant average audience lifts from L+SD to Live+3 in Adults 18-49, including USA’s “Graceland” (+83 percent); Bravo’s “Top Chef” (+81 percent); Syfy’s “Dominion” (+80 percent); USA’s “Royal Pains” (+77 percent) and “Suits” (+70 percent); Syfy’s “Defiance” (+70 percent); Esquire Network’s “Friday Night Tykes” (+65 percent); E!’s “The Soup” (+65 percent) and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” (+51 percent); and Bravo’s recently launched “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” (+50 percent).

NBCU Cable’s networks are the latest to adapt the time-shifted measurements. HBO and FX have already declared it would no longer report same day ratings.

And in his recent Consumer Electronics Show keynote speech on Wednesday, CBS President and CEO Les Moonves raged against traditional ratings metrics calling overnight ratings “worthless.”

Of course, one doesn’t need to have networks convince them that people are increasingly watching series outside of their live airings on DVR or Video on Demand. The ones to convince are advertisers who don’t believe — and probably rightly so — with fast forwarding and other tools like Dish’s commercial Auto-Hop, that their expensive promos aren’t being watched in delayed viewing.

NBCU may be trying to hedge that argument with advertisers with its earlier release on Thursday announcing its new Audience Targeting Platform or ATP.

ATP will incorporate set-top-box viewing data from several third party sources with first and third-party consumer data to identify top performing, client-specific inventory for select categories across NBCUniversal’s entire portfolio of national broadcast and cable networks for advertisers.

Still, it remains to be seen if advertisers are open to these new ways of accounting for viewership.

But in the end, the networks’ efforts will probably win out. The reality is that the average person is watching 12 minutes less of live TV a day than he or she did the previous year, according to Nielsen. It’s a trend that’s unlikely to reverse.