Nielsen released September viewers stats for web sites of the four major broadcast networks last week, revealing that the number of unique viewers went up across the board. But, in an odd turn of statistics, only Fox, which had the fewest unique visitors, was able to increase the amount of time per viewer on its site. In fact, time spent on Fox nearly doubled, while other sites fell off a cliff.
According to Nielsen, the new fall season and the tail end of the presidential campaign helped drive up the number of people logging on to the networks as they caught up on missed TV. NBC in particular got a more than 300 percent bump, which can be explained in part by one woman: Tina Fey-lin. The SNL star’s Palin impersonation was viral video gold.
But, while almost all the networks saw triple percentage growth in uniques from August to September (poor, CBS with its measly double-digits), only Fox saw an increase in time spent. CBS and NBC actually saw the time viewers spent on their sites just about cut in half. That’s bad news, because less time spent means fewer ads seen.
The Olympics could account for NBC’s precipitous drop from 68.5 minutes August to just 34.6 minutes in September. Visitors were no longer constantly coming back to check event results. We’re not sure why CBS saw the smallest gain in uniques, while simultaneously seeing the time spent per those visitors slump from 91.7 minutes in August to 48.4 minutes per viewer in September. Perhaps people are watching CBS shows on partner sites rather than the network site itself. But ABC, which keeps its programming locked up pretty tight, also had the amount of time spent on its site dip slightly from 47 minutes to 45 minutes.
Outside statistics like these are always tricky. I contacted Nielsen and they didn’t have any insight to account for the drastic differences among networks, and a Fox representative told us that it did nothing special to its site during that time; the only thing the network changed was the shows available on the site.