Mumbai: It’s a deviation that has always engaged media planners. The difference in viewership between a programme and the commercials shown during ad breaks of the same programme is crucial as it influences media buying decisions and rates. TAM Media Research, a media research firm, maps this variation through a break drop index (BDI) by subtracting the average break TVR (television ratings) from the average programme TVR, and then dividing it by the average programme TVR.
The BDI scores reveal interesting patterns: for instance, Hindi entertainment channels in the prime time slots of 8-11pm have a 22% drop in viewership during ad breaks, while the drop is slightly higher, at 23%, between 2pm and 4pm.
Cricket shows the maximum retention rate of viewers with an ad drop rate of just 4%. The highest drop rate, at 35%, is seen in Hindi films telecast during prime time, though only 13% viewers stray during ad breaks in the afternoon. English movies fare slightly better with a 31% drop rate during prime time, and 24% in the afternoon. Television programmes in the kids genre are more consistent, with an ad drop rate of 26% for both prime time slots and afternoons.
Drops in commercial viewership are mainly due to channel flipping/swapping, rather than audience exits. Optimum Media Solutions, the media specialist arm of Mudra Communications Pvt. Ltd, has analysed the reasons for such “drop-offs”. Chandradeep Mitra, president, Mudra Communications, enumerates five drivers of dips in viewerships:
• Duration of the ad break: The drop in viewership is less when ad breaks are shorter. Hence, live cricket matches with shorter ad breaks tend to have lower drop than films, which normally have longer breaks. Even in cricket, T20 matches have less, and shorter, breaks than ODIs; hence, the break TVR drops are also less. The more popular a programme, the longer the ad breaks (since more advertisers are attracted to higher viewership platforms), leading to relatively higher drops.
• Position of the ad break: Drops are often higher in breaks early on in a programme, than towards the end. Possible reasons: Towards the beginning of the programme, some viewers still haven’t decided whether they want to see it or not, so they use the ad break to check out options on other channels, before deciding on one. Two, in programmes reaching some kind of climax towards the end (e.g. cricket, reality shows, even serials), viewers tend to stick on, not wanting to lose out on any dramatic moment.
• Genre of the programme: Shows with a built-in competitive factor, such as cricket or reality shows, overall viewership tends to have higher ‘stickiness’ and, hence, drops are less. Also, as a competitive programme progresses, the overall viewership tends to rise and drops come down. For serials, the viewership is more uniform and drops are higher.
• Level of interactivity: High levels of interactivity help reduce drops in break ratings; many viewers are presumably busy SMSing or calling, and so won’t be inclined to switch channels.
• Time of the day: Break viewership drops are higher at prime time than at other times of the day, due to the likelihood of more attractive options on other channels.
While it is apparent that drops in commercial viewing are not a function of a programme’s viewership levels, experts have identified various factors as the cause. Anupriya Acharya, president, TME India, the media arm of Rediffusion DY&R Ltd, says, “A competitive environment, or how good programming is on other channels at that point in time, is also a catalyst for viewership drops.” Tamil Nadu, for instance, has lower dips in Sun TV ad breaks due to limited surfing options, she added.
Media planning and buying also considers qualitative factors. “Long breaks could also mean lower attention levels post the first few commercials as the drop in viewership only captures what was on TV... not necessarily if it was being watched with complete attention, after the first few commercials,” adds Acharya.
Blockbuster movies and eve-nts such as award functions tend to have the maximum commercial drop due to long breaks. Daily soaps show lower deviation, reflecting that female audiences are usually less active in flipping and swapping channels. Different sets of audience behave differently during ad breaks.
Also, switching of channels is common in single-television homes, as members of a family may have conflicting interests in viewing TV programmes, says Meenakshi Madhvani, founder, Spatial Access Media Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Advertisers evaluate the spot rating, and not programme rating, when buying programmes. Most ambitious advertisers try to get their spots featured in the first or last two positions within the ad break. In-programme product placement is another way of tackling the drop between programme and spot ratings, Madhvani points out.