High definition and programme context reduce tune-away according to new return path data

A recent research paper by Kantar Media North America - presented at the ARF's Audience Measurement conference in New York - seems to have come up with some answers. It argues that the emergence of Return Path Data (RPD) technology is starting to reveal clear insights because it is based on second-by-second viewing data from extremely large samples.

So many variables

One of the challenges in really understanding where and when commercials have less "tune-away" is being able to account for all the variables. The long list includes factors such as commercial length, high definition vs. standard definition, position in the advertisement break, pod position in the programme, daypart and programme genre. For this study, ad creatives from a range of industries were tested by analyzing the differences in "tune-away" patterns across all these variables.

The source was Kantar Media's national DIRECTView service for the largest advertised categories (See table below). 100,000 households served as the sample for the analysis over four weeks in October 2009 and, for seasonality, separate weeks in August 2009, September 2009 and January 2010.

While some findings confirmed conventional wisdom, such as the importance of the first position in a pod, the study sheds light on the impact of an ad's context on "tune-away" levels.

High definition = low tune-away

When comparing the tune-away patterns for high definition and standard definition, an interesting pattern appeared: ad-supported cable networks that provide an HD feed show greater audience retention for advertising on their high definition channel than on their standard feed. The mean tune-away for these HD channels is 3.43 compared to 6.36 for standard viewing. Greater audience retention and its implied higher commercial rating is a powerful rationale for networks considering adding an HD feed to their distribution. For advertising agencies, HD promises to be a powerful addition to the marketing tool kit as HD TV set penetration rates continue to grow.

Not all programming is created equal

We always knew it, but now the evidence is even starker: network types show distinct differences in tune-away. For example, while children's programming tune-away levels show an engaged audience.  As children get older, tune-away increases from Kids to Teens to Young Adult programming.

The study's overwhelming conclusion is that tune-away is proving to be a valuable proxy for measuring engagement, both for media buyers and sellers. As RPD adoption and use continues to grow, TV industry stakeholders have an opportunity to increase their understanding of the dramatic tune-away differences by program genre showcased in this study. The path to more

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