Syndies Favor Demos Over Household Tallies
Some syndication executives would like business publications, and other analysis, to report the viewership of their shows based on specific demographics -- such as adults 18-49 and specific women demographics, much like network prime time and other TV venues.
This is especially true now because current modern-day TV advertising deals are virtually all based on demographics. Mort Marcus, co-president of Debmar-Mercury, says: "Reporters are writing about households, and it's not what [advertisers] are looking at." Ira Bernstein, co-president of Debmar-Mercury, adds: "Not one advertiser buys on households."
The advertising trade organization, Syndicated Network Television Association, has long offered up its information performances based on demos. "We report sitcoms and entertainment news on adult targets generally," says Mitch Burg, president of the Syndicated Network Television Association.
Burg adds: "We report daytime on women targets generally. This is something that we've done consistently since I've arrived." From a business marketing perspective, Burg emphasizes that more specific viewer/demographic comparisons would improve syndication TV's message.
Many TV shows can see good results in both households and demographics metrics. But in specific instances, a syndicator's household rating can appear to be weaker than a show's demo performances.
Marcus admits this is the case recently with Debmar's new program "The Wendy Williams Show," which actually shows strong women 18-49 and women 18-34 performances in many markets, although its overall numbers for households did not perform as well.
To be fair, media agency executives and advertisers, both local and national, rarely consider households metrics anymore in any of their evaluations -- certainly not when it comes to specific media buying decisions. Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of broadcast for TargetCast tcm, says TV media plans depend virtually on a client's target audience, and that means specific viewer groups.
Brad Adgate, senior vice president and media research director for Horizon Media, says if he were to choose just one general measurement for program comparison, it would be total viewers. Cable networks already do much of this in generally touting their shows.
According to most buying and selling executives, much of syndication can be broken down into two areas: daytime syndication -- in which the dominant demo is women 18-49 -- and early fringe, prime access and evening syndication, where the main demographic is adults 18-49, just like in network prime time.
As much as 50% of advertising dollars in daytime syndication come from media buys that target women 18-49 -- less so from older women demographics, 25-54, and from young demos, women 18-34, according to estimates. "Women 18-49 bridges the gap -- it is clearly the midpoint," says Debmar-Mercury's Bernstein.
Still, syndicators can be ultimate sales executives -- using whatever they can to promote shows to both their TV advertising and TV station executive clients.
"If a syndicator had a great household number, that's what they would be telling you," says Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Television Group. "If you ranked the top five in households, that is what you'd tout, and that their demos are increasing."
On the station level, local TV program executives still consider programs based on their household performances, as well as demographics, says Carroll. He says local advertisers only judge on a show's demographics.
To be fair, TV marketers buy TV syndication in many different ways. Bob Cesa, executive vice president of advertising sales for Twentieth Television, says, for example, "when [media buyers] evaluate programs in syndication, such as first-run and off-net shows that run in early/ late fringe, access and in some cases prime time, they look predominantly at adult 18-49 viewers."
"However, syndication [also] has game shows that skew older. We also have a lot of off-net sitcoms that skew adults 18-34. There is no one-size-fits-all. At the end of the day, it would depend on what you are comparing our shows to."