Flurry provided its findings in the wake of online speculation that social games have played a part in the demise of daytime television viewing. CBS in August aired the last episode of "As the World Turns," the Procter & Gamble production that has been running for more than 50 years. That followed the CBS cancellation last year of "Guiding Light," the longest-running television drama in history. Ad dollars allocated to soaps have dropped 50% since 2005, according to Flurry.
Last month, BrightRoll CEO Tod Sacerdoti wrote an article arguing that Facebook and social games like FarmVille were prime suspects in the death of soaps. He pointed out that Zynga, for instance, has 50 million users (at least 15 million of which are in the U.S.) and that most social gamers are women between the ages of 18 and 50.
That shift of that demographic toward gaming is decimating daytime, the theory goes -- along with other long-term factors like more women joining the workforce, and the emergence of the Web and DVRs.
In new data released today, Flurry highlighted data showing that social games on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch are increasingly competing for TV viewers. The firm says this category of apps attracts an audience of 19 million who spend 22 minutes a day playing games on iOS devices.
"Treated as a consumer audience, its size and reach rank somewhere between NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' and ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars,' and only 4 million viewers shy from beating the number one prime-time show on television, Fox's 'American Idol,'" stated a post Monday on the Flurry blog.
Flurry didn't break out social game usage according to time of day. But previous research indicates that app use is slightly higher on weekends than weekdays and that peak time for apps during the week is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. If that pattern holds true for social game apps, it would suggest their use overlaps more with prime time than daytime TV.
Furthermore, people don't play social games all at the same time as they do watching TV shows (for the most part). Advertisers still have a preference for the synchronous viewing audience of TV even if the aggregate audience of apps or other digital media is as large or larger than a given TV show. That's why the Super Bowl still commands the biggest advertising bucks and Microsoft is lavishing hundreds of millions on a high-profile TV campaign to promote Windows Phone 7.
Even so, Flurry points out that in addition to drawing TV-comparable audiences, the reach of apps isn't limited by a conventional programming schedule. Apps, in effect, are an always-on medium every day, 365 days a year. "Compared to a top television series, which airs 22 episodes a season, advertisers can reach a larger consumer audience through applications 15 times more frequently," the firm noted.
Advertising in apps, of course, is still an emerging format. Apple may have pulled in $60 million in initial advertisers' commitments for iAd, making the company almost overnight a leader in mobile advertising. But that total is a rounding error compared to the estimated $70 billion spent annually on TV advertising.
COMMENTARY: What this article neglects to mention is that ad revenues from social gaming are miniscule when compared with traditional mass media like TV and radio.
The real reasons behind the drop in daytime soaps viewership are:
- Viewer's are turned-off with changes in shooting formats (more soaps being shot on location).
- Changing role of the woman in the workplace as more mother's (the single largest segment of TV soap viewers) are now working than in the past, some of them working more than one job, due to the Great Recession.
- A substantial drop in traditional "bread-and-butter" advertisers like the auto's and consumer packaged goods as a result of the economy and gradual shift to store brands.
- Younger Millennial mom's are spending more time logged into social network (their favorite activity) like Facebook or Twitter and following mom-related blogs, than watching daytime television.
- Disconnect between younger Millenials with daytime soap opera's, which they view as TV programs for their parents.
- Reluctance of daytime TV operas to broadcast online.
Games have something to do with it, of course, but not to the degree claimed in this article.
Advertising Age looked at the decline of soap operas ratings. There were some fascinating demographic data in there about how the changing role of women in the workforce has lead to a death spiral of ratings for this once-dominant genre. Here's a little more data about the evolving workforce.
Advertising Age wrote:
In June 1952, as "Guiding Light" debuted on network TV, women represented 31% of the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure stood at about 46.7% as of June 2010. Not only are more women working, more of them are the breadwinners of the household and may not have the time required to watch a five-day-a-week TV program. In 1987, 24% of women earned more than their husbands. In 2006, that figure rose to 33%, according to BLS.
That means that 58.5% of women over age 16 are working now compared to just 34.6% in 1952. That includes 76% of unmarried mothers, and 63.6% of mothers with children under 6 years of age.
All of this led to a cataclysmic 80% drop in viewership -- an average of 6.5 million people tuned in to watch daytime dramas during the 1991-1992 TV season, according to Nielsen. By the 2009-2010 season, that average dropped to 1.3 million.
In the story we suggest some explanations, but we asked Nielsen for a bit more data to help us rule out one cause. It's not that people are watching fewer daytime programs. Overall, viewership is up. In the 1991-1992 season, 14% of people overall were watching daytime TV. That has increased to 16.1% (including DVR playbacks) in the 2009-2010 season. The rise in unemployment certainly means more people are home during the day than we've seen in recent years, and they have a proliferation of other shows and channels to watch.
Courtesy of an article dated October 12, 2010 appearing in MediaPost Publications Online Media Daily