NBC's 'The Office' delivered a 5.1-its highest ratings ever-last Thursday among adults 18 to 49, a bump the network credits in large part to the show's popularity as an iPod download.
In fact, the series is NBC's top-performing video podcast available on Apple's iTunes, where it has been available since Dec. 6.
Such a connection between podcast success and broadcast ratings success is particularly significant because the NBC data is among the first available evidence of what network executives have been gambling on when striking their new media deals-that the new video platforms are additive because they provide more entry points into a show for consumers.
In the case of 'The Office,' the series was one of 12 NBC Universal shows that have been available since NBC struck a deal with with Apple in early December. (NBC added 'Saturday Night Live' to the lineup last week.) In that short time period, 'The Office' has accounted for one-third of all the NBCU downloads on iTunes, clearly the lion's share of NBCU content available through the site.
"Lost," ABC's most popular show in terms of downloads, has seen its total audience rise 14 percent and ratings for adults 18 to 49 are up 28 percent. "Desperate Housewives'" total audience is up 7 percent and 18 to 49 ratings are up 3 percent. ITunes downloads for both shows also rose in the last few weeks.
That growth and the knowledge that iTunes distribution possibly grew and certainly did not cannibalize ratings gave the ABC Disney Television Group the confidence to add another round of iTunes programs last week that includes content from ABC Family, Disney Channel, SoapNet, ABC Sports and ESPN, said Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media for the Disney ABC Television Group.
From: TV Week
I'd like to hear some analysis on P2P distribution of the Daily Show vs. viewership. Of course that's cable. Hmmm... not only are these iTunes downloads "competing with free" but they way also be having residual effects in TV viewership how interesting.
(via the unofficial apple weblog)
UPDATE: True to form Techdirt picked up on this exact same point and added their interesting comments.
From: Techdirt:TV Execs Missing The Point About Connection Between iTunes Downloads And Viewers
There's a good chance that all of these factors contributed to the viewership quite a bit. However, the really interesting point is that, if NBC execs are so thrilled about this bump in viewership by putting out an expensive download with a limited audience who can view it, why not just offer the same show up for free? You get a lot more viewers who are likely to get hooked on the show, meaning many more who will watch it on TV. They could even add in some commercials and recoup some money that way. It would definitely provide a lot more viewers, and viewers who are happier, since they'll have more freedom with the content and they'll even be able to share it with their friends to get more buzz going. There are obviously tradeoffs here, and perhaps the execs are calculating that $2/show and a much smaller overall viewership is worth more than a much larger viewership seeing the ads -- but it's hard to see that calculation adding up. Still, it is amusing that executives insist that things like BitTorrent have no redeeming value in terms of attracting people to a show, and yet $2 iTunes downloads are just dandy. Something doesn't add up.
I just love that I'm not the only one preaching about the economics of accessibility anymore. Not that techndirt hasn't preached about this in the past... but I think more and more people are picking up on the economics inherent on the internet... lightnet economics... the fact that perhaps on some level everything must be accessible... Traditional advertising and marketing no longer work... "the conversation" is now back in the hands of the masses and if you want to success in this new marketplace you fundamentally have to make yourself accessible. We will see this time and time again as power is unwillingly rested from incumbent media which then turns out to benifit them... publishers suing google book search being a typical example. The creative commons phenomenon "giving back" some rights to the commons is another... This thing called open access publishing is not just a strategy... it's simply the future of media.