Commentary

Yes, On-Air Program Promos Work

Even obvious things need to be proven sometimes. These days, most of the folks that I work with spend their days analyzing set-top-box viewing data trying to understand how people watch TV, how they find out about shows, and their responsiveness to program promotions. This is a new area for most of the team, since we came from backgrounds in interactive media, quantitative data analysis or behavioral science, not television. Thus, given that we're starting with a clean slate, we spend a lot of time systematically questioning, analyzing and testing long-held industry hypotheses about TV viewing habits to see if they hold up when you dig into the real data.

Recently, we ran a series of tests to evaluate how well on-air program promotions do at actually driving viewers to watch specific television shows. We analyzed anonymous set-top-box data through TNS's Infosys Media System. The results we found were pretty enlightening, so I thought that I would share some of them with you today. Below are findings related to viewer responsiveness to on-air promos for NBC's "Parks and Recreation" from this past spring, which were quite representative for the dozens of shows that we have looked at:

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On-air promos work. This has been confirmed time and again in viewer surveys and attitudinal studies, and set-top-box data confirms it as well. Folks that saw on-air promos for "Parks and Recreation" were 15.9 times more likely to watch the show than folks that didn't see the promos. Yes. 15.9X.

No promo, no viewing. People that didn't see any on-air promos for "Parks and Recreation" didn't watch the show. 0.17% is the percentage of folks that watched the show but hadn't seen a promo. We saw similar numbers for virtually every show we analyzed. This means that if a viewer doesn't see an on-air promo for a show, you can be 99% certain that he isn't going to watch the show. Yes. Not only do promos work, but the reverse is true as well.

Viewers of a feather flock together. People who shared similar viewing patterns with those who liked "Parks  and Recreation" were twice as likely to view the show as the viewing population generally. Yes. That meant that the 15.9X lift relative to unexposed went to almost 32X.

What are the implications of these findings? It's seems that on-air promotion is an enormously critical component in driving viewership to shows, much more so than I had originally thought. Further, it is also pretty clear that different viewers respond quite differently to different promos -- thus, lots of opportunities for optimization. What do you think?

4 comments about "Yes, On-Air Program Promos Work ".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 2, 2009 at 7:07 p.m.

    If people are watching programs on line that they have learned about from the standard TV and if all of the saving for later mechanisms are taking place with the skipping of ads....another ouch ahead if all of the "smart folks" don't find a sure way of non-zooming by promos....Was that a fourth grade answer or what! ?)

  2. Wayne Friedman from MediaPost Communications, July 2, 2009 at 10:16 p.m.

    On-air promos certainly work. All of which is compounded by the fact of broadcast network erosion. Networks are desperate to get more eyeballs to at least sample TV shows -- but it's a losing proposition. Where will on-air promos land next? The Internet? Networks need much more than that.

  3. Michael Senno from New York University, July 2, 2009 at 11:40 p.m.

    What do I think? What took so long. We've been sitting on immense amounts of valuable data like this for a few years and have allowed to let it sit dormant. Your example is the first level. We can analyze channel surfing habits, length of time on each show and what the typical channel pattern is for certain types of viewers, and general viewing habits, to name a few. I'm curious about how many channels an average person actually watches. A pressure point in the a la carte discussion.

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, July 3, 2009 at 7:53 a.m.

    Wayne, I think that promos are certainly going to go online more, but what would have the biggest impact is for more promos to be distributed "off-channel". That is the biggest problem. Everyone sees too many promos of the same shows and too few -- or none -- of shows that they don't know about but might enjoy.

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