TV Nets Treat Some Studios More Passionately Than Others, Some Get 'Crucified'
Because the holiday season is also one of the biggest theatrical move release marketing seasons of the year, Media IQ conducted a special analysis of the prime-time network TV advertising schedules of the top 10 studios for MDN. The data shows that, as a category, motion picture marketers do in fact get preferential treatment, with an average of 27 percent of their spots running in so-called "A" positions, or the first slot in a commercial pod. A positions are deemed more effective and more valuable than other spots in a pod, because research shows viewers are most likely to see those before turning the channel or fast-forwarding through commercial content.
Because movie marketers have a critically short window to "open" their films - often only own or two weekends can determine box office success - every element of their advertising strategies is treated more acutely than marketers in many other categories. The problem is that there often is a tremendous amount of competitive clutter, with studios opening films in the same weekend, especially during the holiday movie marketing season.
"So we got to thinking about which studios actually do the best for commercial positioning," says Brian Cauley, a partner and part of the management team of Media IQ, which helps marketers monitor and evaluate the performance of their agencies' media buys.
What did they find? "Paramount rules the lot. Their releases averaged 33 percent A positions compared with an average of 27% for all releases." The analysis, which looked at data from 120 films grossing $10 million or more that were released between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, found that Paramount managed to reap A positions in a third of its commercial inventory, even though it released fewer films and advertised less than six other studios.
Part of that preferential treatment is explainable by the fact that Paramount's parent Viacom also controls two of the six broadcast networks, CBS and UPN, which did in fact give Paramount better positions than most networks, but not the best of any studios. While Paramount films attained more than half of their CBS and UPN inventory as A positions, UPN actually gave more As to rival Warner Bros.' movies, while CBS gave more of them to Newmarket Films.
That seems nothing short of miraculous, given that Newmarket is a relatively new and tiny player, and that the studio, owned by Mel Gibson, marketed only one film: "The Passion of the Christ."
"Granted, the movie only bought six units, but at least three were A positions," explained M-IQ's Cauley. By comparison, he said, a relatively powerful studio like Dreamworks "got crucified buying 36 units and getting the same number of As in total: three for a meager 8 percent [of total CBS inventory]." Warner Bros., which ranked No. 2 in overall percentage of A positions - 32 percent - naturally got top treatment by sister network The WB, but it also reaped the best positioning on rival UPN and Fox.
The Fox studio, meanwhile, did only average among the major studios in positioning overall, but actually got inferior treatment on its own television network, Fox, where it ranked sixth among the studios.
The same is true of Walt Disney Co. The Disney studio performed well below average overall, and actually ranked only fifth on its own network, ABC. "Did Fox and Walt Disney butter their own popcorn?," quipped Cauley. "Nope, they got middle of the bucket treatment on their own networks."
Cauley also noted that not all prime-time nights are created equal for movie marketers. "Since most movies are released on Fridays, Thursday is a coveted night for studio advertising," he pointed out. "We looked at NBC and CBS Thursday nights, the networks representing the most eyeballs that night. What we found is that Paramount and Warner Bros. really take a leading role on NBC on Thursday night, with 63 percent and 44 percent As, respectively. The next closest studio is Fox with 26 percent. Dreamworks and Miramax are mere extras with 14 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Percentage Of Prime-Time 'A' Positions Given To Movie Studios
Warner Bros. 32%
Source: Media IQ analysis of data from TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. 2004-to-date prime-time network TV ad spending for all theatrical releases grossing $10 million or more.