Ratings measuring the viewing habits of America’s 73 million kids under age 17 – and especially its 40 million two- to 11-year-olds – are ultimately the currency that drives the annual kids advertising upfront. And one of the key industry measurement tools is MAGNA Global’s yearly Q4 report, Television Viewing Among Kids, which analyzes Nielsen kids audience data. We’ve taken an in-depth look at the new Q4 2006 report, and what follows is a clear snapshot of the current kids viewing landscape in the US.
First off, Lisa Quan, author of the study, notes that despite the supposed hubbub over the impact of online video on traditional TV viewing, kids ages two to 11 are watching more TV now than they did five years ago; the study shows kids in this age bracket watched 15 minutes more TV per week in Q4 2006 than they did the previous year. And girls two to 11 and six to 11 spent more time watching kid-targeted programs than ever before at 8.5 hours per week.
That said, it’s worth highlighting that US kids watch almost as many hours of non-kids (think American Idol) programming per week as they do shows specifically made for them. Additionally, even though a full 13% of kids ages six to 11 don’t have access to cable, the average time the two to 11 and six to 11 brackets spent viewing terrestrial networks continued to slide in Q4 ’06; it now stands at less than 15 minutes per week. Such stats don’t bode well for the network Saturday morning blocks, where newcomers like DIC and Qubo have entered the fray to fight for eyeballs and advertising dollars.
However, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. remains the strongest-performing daypart when it comes to kid viewers, garnering a 27.0 audience share (the closest runner-up is the weekday prime-time slot with a 19.2 share). Within that period, the hour from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. attracts the biggest audience, and the three major kidnets tend to run back-to-back eps of their highest-ranked shows then.
As for what US kids are watching on Saturday mornings, it can be summed up in one word: Nickelodeon. The number-one kids broadcaster’s series hold down the top nine spots with viewers ages two to 11 during this daypart. And the top 20 spots are dominated by Nick and Disney Channel, while third-ranked Cartoon Network’s best performers Pokémon: Battle Frontier and newcomer Robotboy ended up in 24th and 25th, respectively.
Disney Channel, in fact, came on quite strong in ’06, and in this year’s report seems to be giving Nick a run for its money. Nick maintains its top position, thanks to the strength of gender-neutral shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants and the fact that it benefits from the highest TV household penetration (82.4%) of the big three. But Disney’s jump in girl viewers drawn to live-action tween hits such as Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody – which rate particularly well during the weekday after-school and prime-time dayparts – has pushed its overall point share from 26.5 in Q4 2005 to 31.2 in Q4 2006; it now sits only a few points behind Nick’s 34.0. In prime-time kids program rankings, for example, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Hannah Montana easily dominated the top two spots with shares of 4.97 and 4.27 with kids two to 11, and those numbers jumped to 6.93 and 6.07 with girls two to 11.