Tales Of Data, Dad Jokes, Defense, Defeat and Detail

Nielsen’s monthly and eagerly anticipated snapshot on the world of video, THE GAUGE, dropped its August report yesterday, with its own PR firm (somehow spared from the recent budget cuts that cost dozens of highly experienced researchers their actual JOBS) prolifically chortling their version of facts to an overly salivating world of observers, investors and pundits.  As CISION’s PR Newswire reported Nielsen’s version verbatim:

After dipping to record lows in August, traditional TV viewership gained ground in August, as broadcast and cable each bounced back to combine for 50.6% of total TV usage, according to Nielsen’s August 2023 report of The Gauge.

Somehow Winslow and his AI bots may have missed the small little detail that those record lows actually occurred in July, since something can’t bounce back from something in the same exact month.

A more muted recap, with actual details, came from DEADLINE’s Katie Campione:

Linear TV viewership made somewhat of a comeback in August after dropping to an all-time low in July, Nielsen reported in its latest monthly state of TV report, The Gauge.  But while linear TV saw a short-term boost, it is still declining rapidly on a yearly basis. Broadcast viewing in August was down 5.5% year-over-year and cable viewing was down 10.6%.

Suits was still dominating streaming in August with 11.7B minutes viewed across Netflix and Peacock. The second most-watched series was Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer at 4.5B minutes. Disney+ took the third and fourth place spots with Bluey and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

However, it was Peacock that managed the largest increase among the streamers with an 8.3% rise in usage thanks to WWE SummerSlam, shared coverage of the NFL Hall of Fame Game, and the release of The Super Mario Brothers Movie. Paramount+ also saw success with Special Ops: Lioness and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to boost its usage by 4.2%.

But as the original Nielsen release offered up with information that seemed to only sneak into a minority of recaps, those bumps were offset by, well, life as we used to know it:

Streaming, which disproportionately felt the back-to-school impact, fell 1.6% in August vs. July, and the category lost almost half a share point to finish at 38.3% of total TV usage. Approximately 80% of this decline involves viewers aged 2-17.

And as they added, it was apparently a bunch of old farts that drove the return to more Luddite sources:

Increased cable usage was driven by a 21.6% lift in cable sports viewing, primarily due to NFL preseason events, as well as an 18% lift in cable news viewing, primarily due to the first presidential debate. About 85% of the overall increase in cable viewing was driven by viewers aged 65 and older, Nielsen reported. 

When I confronted the Nielsen representative who in past months put his personal imprenteur on these findings, Brian Fuhrer, about providing more detail and context for those who apparently want to use this data to their advantage regardless of how much they actually value it long-term, he merely grinned and said “Honestly, our goal is not to try and direct anyone with any narrative .  Anyone can use this data as they best see fit”.

This month, Fuhrer’s name was nowhere to be found.  Probably was distracted with the increased workload he now has, what with so many of his colleague now looking for work.

Well, maybe a few of them could find their way to our niggly friends at Hulu, who late last week proclaimed that they will join their Netflix and Max competitors at providing their own details on their viewership, and made it a point that they will go a few steps further than the others with how deep they will go, as VARIETY’s Todd Spengler reported:

Disney’s Hulu has jumped on the trend of releasing the most-popular trending titles on its service — but instead of the usual top 10 lists for movies and shows, it’s lumping both into one top 15 ranking.

Hulu on Thursday launched “Top 15 Today,” a collection of trending movies and TV series that will be updated daily. Topping the first list are Hulu original series “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short, followed by FX’s “Welcome to Wrexham” and Hulu’s “The Other Black Girl.” Three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, starring Johnny Depp, are on today’s list: the first installment, “The Curse of the Black Pearl”; “Dead Man’s Chest”; and “At World’s End.” .

The reaction of trend watchers like THE VERGE’s Emma Roth bordered on giddiness:

Just like Netflix, Hulu will now show you a list of the most popular shows and movies on the platform. The new top 15 list will start appearing on the service today, with Hulu’s entire library of content eligible for inclusion.

Hulu will update its list every day between 2PM to 3PM ET. Netflix first rolled out a top 10 row in 2020, alongside its “Trending Now” and “Popular on Netflix” carousels that make it easier to spot binge-worthy shows. More streaming services have started to hop on the show- and movie-ranking bandwagon in recent weeks, as Max added a top 10 row last month, too.

But because of details like those Spengler reported, any valid comparison between those services will, of course, be apples and oranges:

The Top 15 ranking is based on total views at the episode level within a 24-hour period and takes into account the popularity of new shows and movies released during that time frame. Hulu’s entire on-demand catalog is eligible for inclusion, regardless of when the title premiered on the platform.

There’s arguably plusses and minuses for the defense of the way each service presents this information, and, natch, each will insist their way is more accurate.  Same is true of Nielsen, though we’ve long reported the delays in delivering results as well as the screens they include make THE GAUGE, at best, a partial and outdated lens.

But as the experienced and insightful Roth confessed, the real benefit and motivation for this detail has far more to do with the manipulation of lazy subscribers than less educated writers:

Since I often find myself scrolling through content on Hulu without actually finding anything to watch, I’m hoping that the new list will make it a little easier to wade through the platform’s vast collection of content.

Well, lucky you, Emma.  Now you can think as much when you’re not working as you appear to want to when you are.

When an old fart like myself, dangerously close to the demo that Winslow snarks is the reason that cable rebounded, points this out to folks like Fuhrer, we tend to be dismissed as inconsequential and disruptive.  I still bristle at the onslaught of insults the head of Parrot Analytics inflicted upon me when I pointed out the worthlessness of intent data to a bottom line-oriented world.  “You’re like the dad who wants to yell from upstairs while we’re having our rave in the basement!”, he exclaimed as several well-dressed younger allies from my competitors took full advantage of his open tequila bar.

I’m sure he thinks I’m the kind of person that would reference detail and defense, not to mention the defeat he seems to wish for folks like myself, in a manner akin to this tired old dad joke, which would challenge someone to use those three words in a sentence.  The answer–brace yourself–is a groaner, prompted by this image:

“De feet of de cat went over de fence before de tail”.

Boo if you must, because that deserves it.  And, for the record, I first heard that joke a long, long time ago— in fact, when I was part of that demo that mysteriously stopped streaming TV last month,  Because once upon a time kids used to go to school and didn’t bring devices along with them where they could still watch stuff, which, of course, the Gauge wouldn’t have been able to factor into their analysis since they still only include viewing from connected screens,

Wanna rethink your damn Gauge, Nielsen?

Any one of you reporters wanna rethink your draconian statements designed to pacify parochial views from people who can’t make heads or tails of the slew of Top 10 and Top 15 lists they get confronted with, let alone the unmitigated bullsh-t that comes out of Parrot Analytics’ paid reports any given month?

One day you might.

For now, just watch out where that cat lands.

Until next time…

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