Study: Viewers Stick With Lifetime Nets Longer

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Lifetime not only draws higher primetime ratings than any other basic-cable channel, but its viewers stick with the network longer than nearly all other video services.

That's the key finding from a new length-of-viewership survey released last week by the female-targeted network. According to Nielsen Media Research data, Lifetime viewers during the months of April and May watched the service for an average of 28.3 consecutive minutes, longer than all other networks except sister service Lifetime Movie Network (28.9) and broadcaster CBS (29.7).

Lifetime also posted numbers that were well above those of general-entertainment networks with similar primetime lineups. USA Network averaged 19.2 minutes of consecutive viewing time, while Turner Network Television and TBS Superstation averaged 18.3 and 17.7 minutes, respectively.

Lifetime Entertainment Services senior vice president of research Tim Brooks said the data underscores Lifetime viewers' loyalty to the network's programming lineup. He also noted that the findings contributed to the network's ability to finish first in household ratings among basic-cable networks over the last five consecutive quarters. Last week, the network also projected a first-place finish for second quarter 2002.

Although Brooks acknowledged that female viewers tend to stay with shows longer than men, he said Lifetime was still able to muster more than 20 minutes of consecutive viewing minutes among adults 18 to 49 — ahead of all networks except Lifetime Movie Network and Soap Network.

Overall, Lifetime Movie Network placed first in tune-in length among women 18 to 49 (28.7) and adults 18 to 49. Brooks said the viewership data would aid Lifetime in its presentations to advertisers looking for vehicles that are consistently watched by viewers.

"This new Nielsen data is highly significant for advertisers, whose spots are much more likely to be seen by viewers who stay put than by these who are constantly flipping channels," Brooks said.

But Turner Broadcasting System Inc. chief research officer Jack Wakshlag argued that there hasn't been any statistical data supporting the argument that viewers pay attention to commercials even if they remain on one channel for a long period of time.

"If you're targeting a certain viewer, then [consecutive viewing time] is important, but there's no agreed upon metric measurement that constitutes [viewer] attentiveness," Wakshlag said.

Instead of length of viewing time, Wakshlag said advertisers tend to be more interested in overall audience reach — which nets advertisers a larger pool of potential buyers. He said that on a monthly basis, TBS Superstation and TNT reach a greater percentage of adult viewers 18 to 49 than any other cable networks.

"There's a lot of ways you can program a network — you can program it for audience reach or you can program it for time spent watching," Wakshlag said. "As a company, we want to be in the audience-reach business."

The viewing time report also showed that cable networks with more niche-oriented schedules tend to keep viewers longer. Those networks included Soap Network (28.3), Cartoon Network (26.6), Toon Disney (23.5) and Hallmark Channel (22.3).

The broadcast networks also fared well in the report. In addition to CBS, which topped all cable and broadcast networks, NBC averaged 27.2 minutes, while ABC and Fox averaged 23.3 and 22.5 minutes, respectively.