For all of you wondering about NBC's "The Office" special "Glee" episode on Nov. 11, here's the real news: It didn't matter.
Everyone gathered around Gabe's home on "The Office" to watch a "Glee" episode. Some critics assumed this was an outrageous creative decision, like free publicity for the already high-flying Fox show. We don't know what, if any, effect this had on "Glee" as yet. (Maybe next week's "Glee" numbers will see a rise).
But we do know this: It doesn't appear Fox paid for product placement integration fees to get "Glee" on "The Office." (I'm sure NBC's advertising/marketing staff would have had a big laugh over that potential meeting.)
We might wonder if those younger viewers of "Glee" could have given "The Office" a boost, after hearing the news that some sort of "Glee" content would be appearing on a Thursday night on NBC. Sure, that might hurt.
Guess what: While "The Office"'s older 18-49 ratings remained more or less the same week to week -- a Nielsen 3.8/10 on Nov. 11 versus a 3.7/10 -- there were actually fewer younger viewers on "The Office" during the "Glee" episode. (Younger viewers being "Glee"'s stronger audiences). Ratings for 18-34 viewers dropped two-tenths of a rating point to a 4.2/12 from a 4.4/13 the week before.
What does this mean? Doesn't look like NBC benefited; and I'm guessing it did virtually nothing for Fox.
Savvy researchers must know all TV audiences aren't interchangeable -- even among younger-skewing TV shows. Look more closely at micro-data, they might say; consider young men with higher incomes versus lower incomes; young females with higher incomes, and lower incomes, for example.
We heard virtually nothing from either Fox or NBC executives about "The Office" episode featuring "Glee" -- and now we know why. I'm guessing few if anyone thought it would make a significant difference either way.
Instead, NBC just gave "The Office"'s creative team what it wanted, what any struggling fourth-place network should have: a chance to do something different.