TV viewership down on last year

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After celebrating the highest viewership figures for television not so long ago, 2013 is down 5% on last year according to new research from Nielsens.

There’s been plenty of pomp, ceremony and brio in recent weeks at the new season launch announcements for MediaWorks and TVNZ. But behind-the-scenes, all is not quite so rosy, with a sharp drop in TV viewership since the middle of the year creating some concern.

Derek Lindsay, chair of the CAANZ Media Committee and managing director of DraftFCB Media, says there was a fairly dramatic drop starting in week 25/26 that has affected the overall viewership numbers significantly. The data can be cut a number of ways, of course, but, depending on the measure and demographic, he says total TV audience viewing is down between 10-15 percent since then.

I’d like to know where this 10-15% figure comes from because the data from Nielsen that they’ve kindly graphed doesn’t show that at all.

It’s thought the broadcasters, the CAANZ Media Committee and Nielsen had a fairly heated meeting to discuss the issue recently and look into what caused it. But Claire Harris, Nielsen’s managing director, media, says the company is confident the data from its 600-strong panel is robust and, “from a process perspective, nothing has changed in the TAM methodology this year”.

I find this incredible.  The viewership figures fall and there’s a heated discussion with the ratings company.  Did anyone suggest it may actually have been related to content? Or lack thereof?

(PUTs = People Using Television)

This first graph shows a 5% decline vs 2013.


There’s a 3.7% decline for the first half of the year.


And again, a 5% drop on last year when compared from July until the start of November.


(ATS = Average Time Spent)


Here are what Nielsens listed as having possible impacts on the viewership figures:

  • Consumer confidence is on the rise
  • Retail spend is increasing
    • Food & beverages sales volume recorded it’s largest increase since 1995
    • Cafes and restaurants make up half of this category
  • More people are travelling
    • July departures set a new record, and were up 15% YOY.
    • September created yet another record.
  • A mild winter and favourable spring


  • Watching TV/movies via internet is stable overall, but shows 10+ percent growth in Sky homes and high income homes.
  • 10 percent decline in renting a DVD; 17 percent decline in Sky homes.
  • Cinema attendance is up eight percent overall, particularly moderate (2-4 last 6 months). There’s been a 40 percent increase in “moderate” for 25-54 with no kids.
  • 20 percent increase in heavy internet (7+hrs per week) overall, and 30+ percent in both Sky homes and high income homes.
  • 33 percent growth in attendance of a live performance. Over 70 percent for 25-54 with no kids.
  • 25 percent increase for 18-34s attending a concert/live music.
  • Growth in domestic travel over last six months for both business (+14 percent) and personal (+12 percent) reasons.

As has been pointed out, 2011 had the Rugby World Cup and 2012 had the Olympics.  Other than the America’s Cup, 2013 hasn’t had the same big events.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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  • Simon

    Measuring the number of people who are (illegally) downloading content would be tricky – and I suspect widespread. I would hazard a guess that this is having an impact on FTA ratings.

  • Maggie

    A lot of people I know are choosing to watch shows online because TVNZ have – in at least two instances, with ‘Mistresses’ and ‘Winners and Losers’ – chopped the current series in half, then showed it at a later date – WHY?!
    In addition, there aren’t many ‘hot off the satellite’ shows showing on either of the networks – we’re having to wait a good couple of years in some cases to watch what the US and UK audiences are seeing now.
    I’ve stopped watching TV as I used to – I just watch a lot of stuff OnDemand now.