Analyst: ‘Massive Error’ in His Spot Increase Data

Fox and Discovery actually aired fewer spots; increase at Viacom was smaller

An analyst who published figures showing big increases in commercial loads at Fox Broadcasting and several cable programmers now says the data he used was incorrect, resulting in a “massive error.”

In a letter to people who receive his reports, Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson Research, said he used data from TiVo, but that “unfortunately, as it turns out, TiVo’s data set incorrectly calculated the number [of] commercial minutes.”

Nathanson now says he believes that Fox’s commercial load was flat to slightly down in the fourth quarter, and not up by 12%. He said the ad load for Viacom’s networks was up mid-to-high single digital, not the 8% he’d originally reported. And the ad load at Discovery was down low-single digits, not up 5%.

Nathanson said he corroborated the new estimates by checking against Nielsen’s Monitor Plus service.

“Given the ratings declines in the quarter, there was no doubt a shift to running shorter length commercials, which shows up a higher unit count data,” he said. “However, a better metric for increased unit ad loads is average commercial minutes per hour. Going forward, we will look to use this . . . and will check future data sets against Nielsen Monitor Plus.”

Nathanson also apologized to his readers and to the companies involved.