A new television ratings survey makes happy reading for TV bosses, suggesting personal programme recorders such as MySky and MyFreeview have not changed New Zealanders' viewing habits.

For the first time the Nielsen Television Audience survey incorporates a representative sample of homes that can "time-shift" their viewing.

It suggests 95 per cent of all television is still watched live. In homes with recorders, a full 80 per cent is watched live or on the same night.

And there's good news for TV advertisers - only about 50 per cent fast-forwarded through the ad breaks in recorded shows.


The new survey incorporating time-shifting - where people can set up live recordings of their favourite shows and watch them later - has been running for only a few days.

Ratings research company Nielsen said it was too early to reach conclusions, but there were "no surprises" and initial results reflected overseas viewing behaviour.

So far it seems recorders like MySky - which Sky charges out at a premium price and is a key part of its revenue growth projections - are underused.

John Fellet, chief executive of Sky TV (which owns free-to-air channel Prime), says people use MySky in different ways. Some will just watch programmes they have recorded.

But a significant portion of viewing is also "as live" - not watched as it is broadcast, but on the same night. Homes with recorders tend to watch more television.

There has long been speculation among advertising agencies about how accurately the standard TV ratings - which register total viewing time for programmes in 15-minute segments using people meters - reflect the audience for commercials.

They don't account for people ignoring the screen or leaving the room during commercial breaks. And recorders - which fast-forward through ads - exacerbate the problem.

Rick Friesen of the free-to-air television promotion group ThinkTV, representing TVNZ and TV3, acknowledged recorders could become an issue. "Its something we need to keep an eye on."

Advertising consultant Martin Gillman said the limited impact of time-shifted viewing reflected that it was still relatively new to the New Zealand market and would grow.

"It's naive to think that ad avoidance has been an issue and that it will be in the future." Gillman said.

One industry source was sceptical about the findings, given the claims of recorder owners that they never watched live TV and routinely fast-forwarded through breaks.

Meanwhile, television advertising revenue rose a healthy 1.9 per cent last year, up $11.4 million to $618.1 million compared with $606.7 million in 2010 and $569.2 million in 2009. Friesen said increased marketing investment by banks, retailers and car manufacturers was a major factor in the growth.

Revenue figures were sourced from returns prepared by TVNZ, MediaWorks TV and Sky Network Television (including Prime).