Sports Broadcasts Holding the Line Against "Delayed Viewership" Incursion

With March Madness approaching the Final Four, sports viewers are among the last bastions of live TV viewers

Apr 02, 2013, 12:30 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, April 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Perhaps you've already heard, seen, read, or otherwise learned of the myriad ways technology now offers us to consume TV programming at our own convenience, regardless of when it plays on the cable, satellite or over the air feed.  Perhaps you've even experienced some of these expanding options yourself.  In fact, based on recent studies, chances are you have. But in this age where we can largely watch what we want, when we want, what special something compels viewers to consider one thing "gotta see it" and another thing "get to it when I get to it"?  Apparently that special something... is a ball.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults surveyed online between March 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.  Full findings and data tables are available here.

Sports broadcasts maintain possession (of viewers, that is)
When asked how they most often watch each of a series of TV programming types – with options including live, "semi-live" (recording but beginning to watch while still airing live), recording and trying to watch the same day or night, watching when they get to it or waiting until several new episodes can be watched all at once – strong majorities of those Americans who watch each indicate typically watching football (81% pro, 74% college), basketball (67% pro, 69% college) and baseball (69% pro) either live or semi-live.  Over six in ten indicate the same for sports talk shows (63%), while awards shows (59%) are the only non-sports centric programming type achieving this distinction.

When those who watch sports and prefer to do so live or semi-live are unable to watch a game or event they're excited about in either of these ways, the question of whether to still watch it eventually comes down to a near photo finish, with the desire to still see it for themselves (53%) narrowly edging out the sentiment that if they can't watch it live, they don't want to watch it at all (47%).

Roughly half of evening talk/comedy show viewers (52%) indicate watching live or semi-live, with similar results seen for daytime talk shows (50%) and soap operas (48%).

Prime time staples intercepted by delayed viewership
By comparison, the mainstays of prime time programming, scripted shows, are struggling to hold onto their once-proud must-see status.  Delayed viewing options outpace combined live and semi-live viewing for comedies (55% delayed, 45% live or semi-live), thrillers (56% and 44%, respectively) and dramas (also 56% and 44%, respectively).

March Madness entering the final stretch – and fans will, of course, be watching it live
Among the 38% of Americans planning on following the 2013 March Madness tournament (in data collected prior to the "First Four"), the majority (54%) indicated planning on following as much as they could throughout the tournament, from the "First Four" on, while three in ten (29%) indicated they would likely start following during the "Sweet 16." 

And how do you think the vast majority (86%) of those viewers will be taking in all the action?  That's right – live (84% on TV, 4% via online streaming or an app).

So what?
TV advertisers are in an increasingly tight spot, with live viewership for many types of programming on the wane and even the semi-live approach allowing viewers to skip through much, if not all, ads (depending on the length of viewership delay). 

Content providers face a similar challenge.  While several approaches have emerged for monetizing online viewership, none have yet emerged as a gold standard.

But for the time being at least, sports programming appears to be successfully holding onto the ball.

To see other recent Harris Polls, or to search through over 40 years of topics in the Harris Vault™, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,276 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #17, April 2, 2013
By: Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive
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SOURCE Harris Interactive