TiVo: Film ads survive skips by DVR crowd

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Good news for film studios: Even television viewers with the ability to skip commercials are watching ads for movies.

That's one conclusion from TiVo, which made results of its StopWatch commercial ratings service public for the first time Monday since launching it six months ago.

StopWatch is a Nielsen-like product that measures audiences for commercials on a second-by-second basis, so that clients may determine the number of people in DVR households that are watching ads live or recorded or not at all, preferring to fast-forward them entirely or in part.

The service also counts households where commercials are rewound and viewed multiple times.

In some cases, according to the data, commercials score higher ratings than do the shows they are on. That can be because TiVo counts each commercial viewing separately, even if it's viewed over and over in the same household, and because Nielsen ratings for shows are based on an average, which could be skewed lower if viewership drops off.

On March 27, for example, DreamWorks scored a 21.1 rating for its "Disturbia" commercial that aired during Fox drama "House," which scored only a 20.2 rating.

Movies ads in general scored well. The top commercials in late March through late April viewed by TiVo users who were watching shows -- and commercials -- that had been recorded were "Disturbia" (No. 1), Universal's "Georgia Rule" (No. 8), Sony's "Perfect Stranger" (No. 9) and "Spider-Man 3" (No. 10).

The following period's top 10 included "Surf's Up," "Knocked Up," "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and "License to Wed."

TiVo uses a panel consisting of random samples from 20,000 homes. TiVo has 4.3 million subscribers.

According to Todd Juenger, vp and GM of TiVo Audience Research & Measurement, the service is intended to augment the ubiquitous Nielsen TV ratings, which are the currency of the television commercial industry.

"We're trying to fill in the missing gaps," he said.

The Nielsen Co., the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, was unavailable for comment.

According to estimates, about 17% of U.S. homes will have a DVR by year's end, growing to 31% by the end of 2010.

Juenger said one highlight of the report made public Monday is that there is not necessarily a correlation between the most-watched commercials and the most-viewed TV shows.

For example, a "Surf's Up" ad that ran on the May 17 episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" was the No. 2 most-watched ad in May for those watching in timeshifted mode (recorded), but that night's "CSI" did not make it into the top 10 shows viewed in timeshifted mode.

Last week, Wall Street firm Bear Stearns issued a report saying that TiVo's new audience measurement business could add as much as $2-$3 to its per-share valuation, "which is not impounded in the stock."

TiVo shares closed up 3% on Monday to $6.01.
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