CBS Pushes For Broader Viewer Metrics, Big Goals For Season's Second Half

Pasadena, Calif. -- With new ways to watch TV shows, CBS now says it isn't always the oldest-skewing TV network when it comes to its programming.

Speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting here, Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, says the median age of its new drama "Elementary" is 36 years old when surveying the digital streaming airings of the show. This compares with a median age of 57 on traditional TV. The online median age for "How I Met Your Mother" is 26.

CBS has been using "Elementary" as an example of why the industry should expand the traditional TV ratings metric it sells to advertisers beyond the C3 metric -- commercial ratings plus three days time-shifted viewing.

Tassler says the lift from time-shifting through seven days of viewing continues to grow. For several weeks this fall, eight CBS shows have averaged 3.4 million viewers from time-shifting.

David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS Corp., says "Elementary" now gets a total of 13 million viewers over the course of seven days of viewing -- this includes its live airing, plus all DVR time-shifting, streaming video and video on demand. Just looking at a program's live-plus-same-day rating, the show is getting around 9 million total viewers.

Video-on-demand in particular is growing, he says -- and is valuable for networks -- because on cable systems networks disable (through the TV distributors) the fast-forwarding function for the first three days. That means TV marketers' commercials can be seen.

CBS' traditional prospects for bigger gains this season seem brighter.  

Fox has already conceded that it will not win another season among key 18-49 viewers. The network has won the big viewer crown for the last eight seasons. Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting, believes the network won't have a chance to repeat as the leader among 18-49 viewers as it has dug a big hole, dropping over 20% in the fall in its year-ago ratings.

CBS has been in second place among the key 18-49 viewers for many of those seasons. This past fall, NBC has been way ahead of other networks as a result of strong numbers for "Sunday Night Football" and "The Voice." Now that "SNF" has ended its fall run, the network season 18-49 race will be much closer, say analysts.

CBS got some big news from "Big Bang Theory" this past week with an eye-popping special "Star Trek" themed-episode grabbing a Nielsen 6.4 rating -- its best rating ever for the show -- a rare occurrence for a show in its sixth season.

Asked about the issue of violence on TV -- a constant question at the TCA meeting -- CBS's Tassler says: "I'm a mother, I'm a parent.... What my child watches or doesn't watch is my decision." 

At the same time, she added: "We respect the relationship with our audience. We have to pick the best material. There is comfort that there's a discussion going in how we can handle this situation."

CBS has the Super Bowl next month and has given its new drama "Elementary" the key post-Super Bowl time period spot -- a marketing move that yields major sampling for any TV show that occupies that time period.

Why this show? Tassler says another rookie drama show, "Vegas," was also in the running. But ultimately, she says, "Elementary" won out. "It's character procedural...It's got great appeal for appealing to all viewers."

CBS is starting up "Golden Boy" for mid-season, a show about a cop's rocketing rise to become New York City Police Commissioner -- as well as new reality competition show "The Job." Both shows will get Friday time slots. Longtime utility comedy player "Rules of Engagement" will return mid-season at 8:30 pm. on Mondays.

Come the summer CBS is bringing back "Unforgettable" for some new episodes, as well as starting up the new Stephen King-created story "Under the Dome." CBS will also have new reality show "The Great British Bake Off," and returning reality stalwart "Big Brother."

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