Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies and Les Moonves: More Fun with Numbers

With apologies to Mr. Moonves, CBS crushed the competition last week, but I love a catchy headline.

One thing that’s always bothered me and always will because it’s not like it’s ever going to change is the way numbers get used. Misleading statistics make it out into the media stream and then there is this tendency to just start parroting the statistics because they’re out there. Recently I saw this Moonves quote:

"But DVRs are getting counted, and you're seeing that they are not as disastrous to commercials as everybody thought. Nobody would have thought that only [about] 45 percent of people zap commercials. Not only that, but commercials you zap through are still effective to a certain extent. When you see that Crest toothpaste logo, that goes into your brain. More and more people are going to be viewing [commercials] with the logo throughout,” said Moonves in a story on Jack Myers’ mediaVillage.

Wow, 55% of DVR owners don’t zap through commercials! At the risk of some perilous branding here: you have to be kidding me! Maybe it’s true. What I suspect is really the case is that only 45% always zap through commercials. I’m pretty sure the way the data actually works out is that most DVR users zap commercials most of the time when they are watching something time shifted.

That is not the song Moonves was singing here. I do believe that only a small % of DVR users always zap through commercials. I often find myself not zapping through them. Usually it’s when I wasn’t actually paying attention to what I was watching! I watch ESPN’s PTI religiously on the DVR, but I often watch it on my computer and am just listening while I surf the web or try to get the tvbythenumbers.com web site looking much better than what you see here before we launch next month.

I could be wrong in my assumptions and it could be Les Moonves is right. But I’ll tell you what, I’d bet $1000 that the data doesn’t show that 55% of DVR users never zap through commercials. I contacted Nielsen for clarity on the data, but so far my request has fallen on deaf ears (it’s been over a week and I asked more than once). I think the clarity is very, very important, but admittedly it’s far more important if you’re buying advertising based on the numbers that include DVR viewership than it is if you’re selling the advertising.

It’s not just the networks. When it comes to TV data, it’s just plain hard to get. I wanted to provide Bill Gorman with some numbers so he could make a chart on the growth of homes in the US with HDTVs. I tried to compile some data from the internet and it looks like this: (again, I am only talking homes in the United States, not worldwide):

March 2004 1.6 million homes (source = In-Stat)
March 2005 4.0 million homes (In-Stat)
Dec 31, 2006 27.7 million (source Global Analysis)
Dec 31, 2007 52 Million Homes (source CEA)

In the most recent data point provided by the Consumer Electronics Association is projecting end of year stats based on the sales of HDTVs during the first six months of 2007 that a total of 16 million additional homes will be added to the number of homes with at least one HDTV. I have 2, three if you count the plasma screen hanging on Michael Raneri’s basement wall – hey, I have a 61” DLP set, and bigger is better. Hanging the plasma screen on my office wall and using it as a computer monitor seemed excessive, besides it is five years old now and can only do 1024x768 resolution. If it could do 1920x1280, I’d have already ripped it off Mike’s wall.

Enough about me. I don’t take issue with the 16 million additional homes with an HDTV in 2007. But, they say that 16 million additional homes in ’07 brings the US Total to 52 million. I couldn’t find any data showing 36 million homes at the end of 2006 which is more than 8 million more homes than with the data I could find.
It doesn’t mean the data doesn’t exist, only that if it does I couldn’t find it or it’s a stat that is not freely available anywhere. We’ll still probably make the chart anyway and whether it’s 52 million homes or 44 million, it’s getting to be a lot of homes.

But here’s another statistic from the CEA from the same press release predicting the 52 Million homes, 44% of the homes with at least one HDTV receive no HD programming at all.

It’s bad enough that I don’t get Mark Cuban’s HDNet or HDNet Movies channels via my Comcast HDTV package, but at least I’ll be able to watch him dance in HD if the sources for this story are correct.

Who spends all the money for an HDTV and then doesn’t get any content? Apparently a whole lot of people.

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