Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s president of research and media development, is presenting research at the ARF Re:Think conference essentially in defense of network TV. He’s claiming TV viewing hasn’t decreased as a resut of the Web, rather that people are absorbing more media simultaneously as they multitask.
He’s also showing eye-tracking scans taken of views as they fast-forward through :30 spots on DVRs. The graphics are supposed to indicate these viewers concentrate more intently on the center of the screen as the ads whiz by, indicating there’s no real conscious absorption of the ad message, but there’s nevertheless an unconscious message being conveyed.
This sounds dubious. Sure, networks are bound to conduct research in their own interests — why wouldn’t they? But the message coming through from Wurtzel (who’s still talking) is that while consumers certainly are still watching TV, they’re significantly less focused on it. In fact, they may even be most intent on the set when they’re trying to avoid something rather than watch it.
This raises questions about engagement, something the ARF is still working to define.
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