Audience tracking refers to a detailed analysis of total viewer counts on a minute-by-minute (using data from
) or second-by-second (using data from other sources) basis. It is useful in highlighting changes in viewing based on sometimes subtle changes in program content.
Audience Track - Morning Programming
The figure above, for example, shows a typical audience track plot for an morning news program. There is no significant drop in viewer counts during advertisements, suggesting that people may be watching the program while preparing for the day, but are not involved enough to change channels during breaks. There is a very gradual decline in viewing over the hour, which is probably reflects the departure of people as the leave home for work.
Audience Track - Evening Programming
The influence of advertising breaks for evening programming is much more dramatic, as indicated in the figure above. At every break there is a precipitous decline in viewing with a gradual rebuilding of the audience over the next 10-15 minutes.
It is interesting to note that for some of the advertising breaks the floor is fairly flat, while for others, such as the one at 10:01, there is a continuing gradual decline during 2-3 minute break, suggesting that either:
- The first ad or two were interesting to the audience, but some of the others were not, or
- The programming during this period was relatively captivating, and most were willing for a time to watch the ads while waiting for the program to continue.
The abrupt upswing on the right end of the figure above is a lead-in swing, which is occasionally evident during the final seconds of a program. In this case, most of this swing occurred during the final 60 seconds of the program, and the slope of this swing is rather steep. The duration and shape of this curve can be an indicator of the strength of the program that follows.
Audience Track - Advertising During News Programming
The figure above shows an audience track for a one hour news magazine. Again, the timing for each of the advertising pods is evident. However, in this case, the program failed to recover from the advertising break that occurred at 9:19 PM. People left during the break and never came back.
The figure below shows where they went. As indicated in the title and legend, it answers the question, "Of the households that were watching the news program at 9:17 PM (just before the ad break), what were they watching at 9:31 PM if they weren't watching the news program?" Most went to either Fox, TBS, or turned off the television.
Using Audience Watch on a standard MS Windows PC, each of the plots above required about 2 seconds to produce. The figure below required about 1 second to produce.