Tag Archives: Sky 1

The Broadcast Awards 2011 announced, with one glaring ommission.

3 Dec

The Broadcast Awards were announced today; the media industry version of the BAFTAs that lacks any of the glitz but has some credibility thanks to a Broadcast Now magazine subscription being on every media corporation’s Christmas list.

But a quick look down the shortlist of the awards screamed out an ommission that I can’t possibly find any justification for…


An Idiot Abroad: the most important Sky 1 show for years?

1 Dec

Sky have had it tough in recent times, with top brass accusations that their investment in content is not up to standard and losing a whole host of their biggest shows (including Lost, 24 and Prison Break) – but there’s been a bright spark on Sky 1 that may turn out to be the most important show in the channels recent history.

But before, let’s consider some of the considerations that Sky has made before commissioning a piece like this:

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That PVR problem…

26 Aug

Guardian Media, and various other publications, reported a few days ago that 86% of viewers who watch shows on PVR (by recording shows on Sky+, V+ etc) skip the advertising by fast-forwarding through them.

Intrigued, I had a look at two of the biggest shows in the UK this year (Lost on Sky 1 and Spartacus: Blood & Sand on Bravo) to see the impact PVR had on commercial viewing figures.

I studied the finale of both shows, where PVR usage was most profound (especially as the Lost finale was aired at 5am)  – the crucial thing to notice is the massive drop off at the point of advertising breaks, with practically zero viewers watching the adverts of these shows on recorded playback.

Why is this a problem?

PVR use is on the increase and it doesn’t look like the rise will stop any time soon (thanks to the cheaper availability of Sky+, V+, Freeview+ etc), so broadcast sales houses are fighting to find ways to convince agencies and advertisers that television is still a medium worth exposing their brand on. But the sheer volume of eyeballs that was TV’s big sell is slowly frittering away, as people choose to record and skip the advert instead of watching live and having to watch through them.

Which channels are most affected by the PVR problem?

A number of channels have a starterlingly high number of PVR viewers, which therefore means viewers who will rarely sit through the adverts. These channels therefore lose billions of impacts to this and are struggling to find ways to get viewers to watch the programmes at the exact time they air.

The top 15 channels most affected by the PVR problem in peak hours (8pm-11pm) in 2010

(source: BARB, Jan-August 26th 2010)

  1. Sky 1 – 64% live viewers
  2. Living – 71%
  3. BBC HD 72%
  4. Sky Real Lives – 74%
  5. Bravo – 74%
  6. MTV – 74%
  7. Syfy – 75%
  8. FX – 78%
  9. E! – 79%
  10. The Style Network – 79%
  11. Channel 4 – 80%
  12. Diva – 80%
  13. E4 – 82%
  14. Sky Arts 1 – 82%
  15. CBS Drama – 83%

The results are startling, as 36% of Sky 1’s audience in peak are watching it on recorded viewing – and with (if the news is correct) 86% of those viewers fast-forwarding through the adverts, that means potentially 30% (or so) of Sky 1’s advertising revenue in peak has been lost this year thanks to PVR use. And Channel 4 is being affected majorly too – 20% of their peak-time viewers are watching recorded viewing, so that’s a big chunk of the commercial impact pie gone.

One odd trend I noticed in that list, and a surprise one too in many ways, is the amount of female-aimed channels in that list – Living, Diva, Style Network, MTV and E!  all featured have a high proportion of PVR viewers – it seems it’s the women most wanting to avoid the ads!

The only unaffected channel in that list is BBC HD, the lucky buggers.


I had a look at the minute-by-minute audience for the finale of both Lost and Spartacus: Blood & Sand, two shows renowned for having high PVR viewing, to see what the drop-off is when the advert breaks arrives. The results are astonishing:

Do you see the viewer drop-off from that first ad break on the graph? Literally every PVR viewer skipped the adverts for a minute there! This meant that there was no commercial gain from the viewers watching the show non-live for a minute and less than 5% gain for the rest.

That’s right, the episode ‘lost’ over 90% of viewers at the ad breaks from the PVR viewers (whilst the live viewing line stayed almost straight, meaning no viewers were lost when the ads played for those watching at the time of it airing). Sky put the episode on at 5am for the dedicated viewers and to ‘beat the pirates’, but in doing so obviously sacrificed a lot of commercial revenue. And I don’t get how they ‘beat the pirates’ by knowingly putting the episode at a – that would guarantee such a massive percent of PVR viewing and therefore losing more money than they would have made – other than a purely branding stunt, it looks like the pirates won that one.

I know this is an extreme example, as this is undoubtedly one of the most PVRed moments in the history of television (if not the most), but to see the audience go from over 1 million to less than 100k in the space of a minute demonstrates the huge uphill battle TV buyers have.

The story is even more pronounced with the finale of Spartacus: Blood & Sand, with less than 5% of PVR viewers staying to watch the adverts. That means the big numbers the usually small digital channel had achieved with the show were wasted, as there was barely any commercial impact gain from the live viewing figure (of just above 350k, which is still impressive for the channel). It may have been a brand-savior for a channel previously thought of for smut and Danny Dyer, but that only goes a limited way.

There isn’t an over-arching solution to this post, mainly because methods are slowly being brought into place to tackle the problem. Product placement is the main one, although I’m still jittery about that thought. Encouraging appointment-to-view programming, like live events, is another option – although I can’t think of many more rivetting appointment-to-view TV moments than the Lost finale (and that backfired!). Encouraging cross-platform advertising is another favourite, although I’m still skeptical about the effect of banner advertising on the internet (no matter how many flawed surveys come out in support of it).

My main point is that PVR usage is even worse than Mediacom and various other media industry bodies are letting on, and the broadcasters and sales houses are very aware of this. So hearing that the newest American drama or ‘must watch’ show is getting big numbers sounds impressive but if you take a closer look those numbers are not being transferred into money like they used to – 1.2 million Lost viewers ten years ago was 1.2 million people watching the ads (give or take a small % turning over during the ad break), now it’s barely a tenth of that.

A number of offices, with eager TV sales people desperately scrambling for extra numbers, must be resenting the day Sky + (and the various competitors) hit the market. And it’s going to require creative solutions to tackle this before it’s too late – sadly it’s the viewers who will pay the ultimate price, as less revenue to channels means tighter budgets for programming in the future.