Viacom Networks' Commercial Clutter Dates Back Several Years
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/30/2012 2:55:14 PM
On Thursday, A Viacom spokesperson reiterated the company's position from Monday. The spokesperson also said that commercial loads for all networks are continuously changing, stating that "commercial loads fluctuate quarter-to-quarter and even month-to-month. The commercial load ebbs and flows on every network."
However, an analysis data using Nielsen Adviews finds that the Viacom networks have been consistently among the most commercial-cluttered on cable television. The data show that among the 40 highest-rated cable networks and using fourth-quarter data for each year, the top four most cluttered networks in 2009 to be Viacom's TV Land, Nick at Nite, Spike and Comedy Central. In 2010, the five most cluttered included Viacom's Spike, TV Land, VH1, MTV and Nick at Nite, in that order. While in 2011, the most cluttered were Spike, TV Land, VH1, MTV and Comedy Central.
The total non-programming time includes national and local commercials as well as network promotions.
Fourth Quarter 2009
Network Non-Programming Minutes Per Hour
TV Land 19.7
Nick at Nite 18.4
Comedy Central 17.8
Food Network* 17.5
* Not a Viacom network
Fourth Quarter 2010
Network Non-Programming Minutes Per Hour
TV Land 19.8
Nick at Nite 18.4
Fourth Quarter 2011
Network Non Programming Minutes Per Hour
TV Land 20.4
Comedy Central 18.3
Based on the three-year track, it doesn't seem like this year's further increasing of commercial minutes are a "temporary situation" since history shows the Viacom networks have been among the most commercially cluttered for the past several years.
Media buyers are concerned that this could eventually impact C3 viewing patterns on which TV ad rates are based. Buyers worry that as the Viacom networks get more cluttered, viewers watching shows over three days will have more motivation to begin fast-forwarding through commercials. While a large percentage of viewers are doing that now, the situation for commercials on the Viacom networks could be impacted to a far greater extent, buyers say.
The Viacom spokesperson said the commercial levels on Nickelodeon have not increased, but have increased on Nick at Nite.
Nickelodeon's daytime kids programming is limited by federal guidelines as to how many commercials can be run per hour, but its Nick at Nite block, which runs in primetime, is considered family viewing and not subject to the federal limits.
The FCC's rules limit the amount of commercial time in kids' TV programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. And those time limits apply to programming aimed at kids 12 years or younger.
Another analysis of Nielsen data on kids networks shows that at least part of Nickelodeon's sizable ratings declines over the past year are due to increases in ratings at its competitors and The Hub, the new kids network which premiered in fourth quarter 2010. Looking at the past year -- September 2010 to August 2011 vs. September 2011 to August 2012 -- Nickelodeon ratings have declined 25.3.%, Cartoon Network has increased by 4.3%, Disney XD has increased by 4.9%, The Hub has increased by 28.6% and PBS Kids Sprout has increased by 64.3%.
Actually, Nickelodeon's Nicktoons and Nick Jr. networks, aimed at younger kids, have shown ratings growth over the past year. Nicktoons ratings are up 8.7%, while Nick Jr.'s ratings are up 3.3%.
"Nickelodeon has been losing viewers in the 6-11 age range because of some new competition and because its current shows have been around for a while," says one media buyer, who did not want to speak for attribution. "The network hasn't had a new hit in the last couple of years and as their viewers have aged up, they haven't offered them new programming. So they are moving away from the network to other choices. Kids today have so many choices and it's easy for them to just switch to other networks."
On Wednesday, one head rolled at Nickelodeon when Brown Johnson, longtime animation president at the network, was fired. Johnson was responsible for bringing past Nickelodeon hits like Dora the Explorer and Blue's Clues to the network, and was working on the relaunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At the same time, the network announced that Russell Hicks, a 14-year veteran of the network, had been named president of content development and production for the Nickelodeon Group. He had been chief creative officer since 2008 and now assumes Johnson's oversight of animation development as well as live-action programming. Other changes include Margie Cohn being named president of content development and Paula Kaplan being named executive VP of current series. Terri Weiss continues as executive VP, Nickelodeon preschool development and production. Rich Magallanes stays on as senior VP, animation and current series, and Keith Dawkins continues as senior VP and general manager at Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick.
A New York Times story wondered why Nickelodeon did not bring anyone in from the outside with new ideas. The article by Brooks Barnes states: "The moves centralize animation and live-action programming. What they don't do is add fresh blood to Nickelodeon's management lineup -- something that some analysts say is crucial to reviving the channel's creative spark and fending off competition from Disney [which] recently introduced an entire preschool channel with shows like Doc McStuffins showing early promise."
Viacom says the increased loading of ads is a "temporary situation" that Viacom will "address" as ratings improve.
Huh? What are they smoking over there? Increased commercial loads will DECREASE their ratings, not increase them. Who wants to sit through 3 or 4 minutes of commercials 3 times in half an hour?
Scott Gilbert - 8/30/2012 4:14:58 PM EDT
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