Network Sites Lead in Prime-time


The smart money is on keyboard vacuums, because America is increasingly watching its popcorn programming while sitting at a computer.

Network Primetime IndexPeople are spending lots of time on broadcast network sites during prime-time, according to a new report from Nielsen//Netratings. Nearly 40 percent of time spent on NBC’s site was at home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays during February.

Users were nearly three times more likely to be browsing NBC’s site during prime-time than average. In a recent Hitwise report we covered, NBC’s site also dominated among other broadcast network sites for share of visits, meaning it must be doing something right online.

Among networks, ABC, Fox and CBS follow NBC. The graph represents the relative “Prime-time Index” of each network, or the percentage by which visits are more likely to fall during prime-time than average. According to Nielsen//Netratings analyst Michael Pond, “[T]he advent of interactive television such as voting online for contestants on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘Grease: You’re the One that I Want,’ encourages the simultaneous consumption of TV and Web content.”

In an interesting note, TV Guide’s site actually beat CBS with an index of 179, which leads me to believe that people are logging in for a number of reasons, including viewing interactive content that runs alongside shows and looking for other stuff to watch in the listings. Visions of couch potatoes watching television with their laptops nearby are no longer the stuff of network executive dreams. I’d like to know what share of prime-time visits are going to streamed shows, and not turning on a TV at all.

For the three hours before prime-time, youth-oriented television sites did best, with the WB Network, MSN TV, Cartoon Network and ranked third, fifth, seventh and eighth respectively. But the results were dominated reference sites like and and social networks like MSN Live Spaces and Lycos Angelfire — suggesting that educational programming and cooking shows, as well as youth-oriented talk programming, could expand their audience experience (and advertising impressions) by catering to these trends.

People also do sign off the computer when they turn on the television, as we previously learned. All the excitement around Facebook can’t help one bit in the face of the Grey’s Anatomy juggernaut.

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