Attention to television: An objective measurement supplement to standard television program ratings

Date of Completion

January 1997


Business Administration, Marketing|Psychology, Cognitive|Mass Communications




Traditional standard television program ratings which provide aggregate audience size measures no longer provide a sufficient measure of a program's performance in today's multi-channel television viewing environment. The quality of viewership becomes much more important for television program producers, advertisers and broadcasters. An objective supplementary measurement based on individual impact is needed. The present study proposes to use attention as a supplementary measurement to traditional standard television program ratings. It provides a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between attention and key advertising effectiveness measurement variables: recall of commercial, attitude towards commercial, program involvement. It also examines the attention carryover effect from television program to commercial and the relationships between attention and program impact, program type and standard program ratings. Related hypotheses are proposed and tested by laboratory experiment.^ The present study uses reaction time to the secondary task to measure attention to television. This measure is superior to other indirect and direct attention measurements. Three hundred fifty-three undergraduate students from the University of Connecticut participated in the study as subjects. Multiple regressions, zero-order correlations and ANOVAs were employed in fully specified within-subject and between-subject analyses. The findings of this study indicate that attention has mild causal relationship with recall and attitude towards commercial within each viewer but not between viewers. A strong attention carryover effect from television program to commercials was found. There were significant differences between subject's attention to audio-based and visual based television programs. The findings of the present study suggest that there are two ways to achieve better advertising effectiveness: increase attention to television program and program involvement, which all lead to better recall of embedded commercials. Attention has proven to be a valuable supplementary measurement to standard television program ratings. ^