i3 | April 02, 2020

Timing is Everything

Gary Arlen
Time-shifted entertainment has a new dilemma, thanks to streaming video. NBCUniversal’s new Peacock service plans to stream The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers shortly after they are recorded around dinnertime each evening (at 8 and 9 pm ET respectively) — before the shows are telecast via broadcast affiliates at about 11:30 pm and 12:30 am ET.

It’s the first time that “live” TV programs will stream before theirlinear airing —a major shift for local TV affiliates who could face potential viewership changes (although early streaming may only be available to Peacock Premium viewers). Plus, viewers who are watching the streamed “late night” shows during prime timewill not be watching regular TV schedules.

This new service is another reminder that when it comes to video distribution, we’re now dealing with minutes and hours — not weeks and months.

Netflix and Amazon Prime are releasing their top original productions theatrically to qualify for Oscar buzz.

Consuming Content 

Timing — an important distribution issue for video releases — has become more precise. Now timing strategies reflect the overhaul in audience attention and viewing patterns. With the rise of digital media consumption, Nielsen has deemed that screen time largely represents a shift of attention between platforms — since most viewers already consume about 12 hours of media per day (including audio and social media as well as video). That total includes about 6.5 hours with digital media, 3.5 hours with TV and 1.5 hours with radio, and tallies “multitasking time,” so that an hour watching TV while simultaneously surfing online counts double. Nielsen claims that “appointment viewing” is now rare. Except for live sports and special events like the Oscars and “hits” such as Game of Thrones or NCIS, few shows had at least 10 million viewers for their original real-time airing plus same-day viewing (via DVR or on-demand streaming).

“Delayed viewing” is a central focus of Nielsen’s analyses. Thanks to individual time-shifting, ratings for primetime dramas climbed 40% higher and even “less popular shows” found 20% more viewers up to five weeks after initial airings. Among viewers in the 18 to 49 age brackets, nearly two-thirds watch prime time shows via delayed viewing. “Most of the audience for Fox’s animated comedies watch on other platforms,” Nielsen said.

How, Not Just When 

Many recent releases also have brought the platform issue front and center. Netflix and Amazon Prime are releasing their top original productions theatrically to qualify for Oscar buzz. That tactic picked up with the holiday season release in theaters of The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Report, The Aeronauts and Dolemite Is My Name.

But now that process is being reevaluated. Amazon is reportedly cutting back its advance theatrical releases to bring original productions to its own online audience as quickly as possible. More, big theater chains such as Regal and AMC are insisting on 90-day exclusivity before films are streamed online, seeking to draw in patrons for as long as possible.

This brings up the issue of convergence of the movie and TV industries —most noticeably distinguished by their Oscar versus Emmy awards guidelines. Traditionalists, including Steven Spielberg, have contended that streaming video releases are “TV movies.” Yet the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year dismissed a proposal that would have made it harder for streaming films to be nominated for Oscars.

All of this means that the “where” as well as the “when” of viewing will be under consideration for quite a while. 

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