Turner Broadcasting System, in a test with Cox Communications' MyPrimetime, found the operator's video-on-demand service increased views of eight top shows from TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network by almost 10% within three days of air.
Turner and Cox began testing customer response to the VOD service in December 2008. Through the trial, Turner confirmed that time-shifted VOD viewing of its shows -- which included the full broadcast ad load, with fast-forward functionality disabled -- could be counted toward Nielsen C3 ratings.
Cox plans to increase the number of shows in the MyPrimetime lineup to 100 by the beginning of October, up from 50 to 60 today. The service is available in 11 markets, and the operator expects to expand it to all digital cable subscribers later this year.
In the test with Turner, the time-shifted programming was available free to select Cox digital-cable customers the day after the shows' first run on linear broadcast. The shows included TNT's The Closer, TBS's Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns and Cartoon Network's Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Cox and Turner said they were able to preserve the Nielsen watermark -- an inaudible cue tone that is detected by Nielsen's People Meters to measure advertising exposure -- and to deliver the content in exactly the same form as linear broadcast.
"One of the major challenges faced by programmers and distributors in offering consumers greater convenience in time-shifting content has been preserving the advertising business model that enables high-quality programming to be produced in the first place," Cox senior vice president of programming Bob Wilson said in announcing the trial results. "Our work with Turner demonstrates that consumers will view on-demand content, with advertising, and that this exposure can be measured; this is a major milestone that will enable more content and convenience for consumers."
The companies said that viewers still chose to view entire shows almost 100% of the time, even with fast-forward functionality disabled, far exceeding full-show viewing rates of TV shows online.
"The collaboration shows how cable networks and their affiliates can preserve ad revenue, while still giving viewers anytime access to the popular programming they love," Coleman Breland, chief operating officer of Turner Network Sales, said in a statement. "Because commercials aren't skipped, advertisers know their messages get through and most importantly, viewers get what they want when they want it."
Cox first launched MyPrimetime in 2007. The operator's internal research found that more than 80% of customers who use the service are satisfied with the experience, and 27% said they would not have watched the show at all otherwise.