Will You Fail TV's test... Or Will TV Fail You?

Take a TV test. TV networks still believe your positive results are crucial for their fall season. For decades, business analysts have heard these pleas -- something senior TV executives can hang their hats on. Better than a whim or a hunch.

But these factors can be considered as well.

Take NBC and think TV testing. It had a great fall season this year -- but, for the most part, scripted shows weren't a main success for success. NBC's big results came from a singing reality show ("The Voice") and a longtime high-rated sports franchise ("Sunday Night Football").

But since then, NBC has trailed off a bit. The good news: it is not in the position it was a year ago. Through May 5, NBC was in third place, down just 4% from a year ago to a 2.4 rating among 18-49 viewers, looking at live ratings plus seven days of time-shifted viewing.

New shows for next season that made the grade, or test, for NBC: One is about a girl who discovers her supernatural powers. Another, about a divorced gay dad who juggles work with raising a teenage daughter. Still, another about a comedy about a white high-school graduate impregnated by her Latino boyfriend.

For all this and other shows for NBC, Bob Greenblatt, president of NBC Entertainment, stated: "This is the most robust and highest-testing slate of new shows we have had in years."  Well, everyone needs confidence, even when historical broadcast trends have been moving south -- generally speaking -- for decades.

Two good-rated shows in the current season have been "NBC's "Revolution" and Fox's "The Following." Did they test well? Seems that no broadcast network TV shows come untested.

Cable networks will tell you the same thing. Except, it seems cable networks, which have a lower threshold, at least,  according to Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting.

He says: "We live by a different standard. The vast majority of cable [ratings] flow comes from our network programing. We cancelled shows that most cable networks would continue with."

New wave testing would like to take advantage of social media. But few have figured out how to harness its power for future TV programs. Typically in a tradition TV test, there's screening room where people have dials or other devices in their hands to give their immediate reactions to a TV show -- its cast, the storyline, and the overall production -- while it plays. Many data points can be collected.

But any real "test" comes from the first airing of a show -- which takes into account all the stuff a test can't account for: marketing, lead-in programming, scheduling and other factors. So think about TV testing scores as something just to consider.

And then factor this: One of the worst testing scores ever for a TV show was one from NBC called "Seinfeld."



3 comments about "Will You Fail TV's test... Or Will TV Fail You?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications, May 14, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.

    Here is whats wrong with broadcast drama/comedy, networks pile a lot of crap on the screen that often gets in the way of the acting/story...

  2. Mike Mellon from Retired TV research guru, May 14, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.

    Testing does NOT predict success. It allows the decision makers another avernue to explore as the schedules are made. Some great testing shows fail. Some horrible testing shows succeed.

    Plus, only the pilot is tested for fall scheduling. How many wonderfully testing first episodes become terribly produced series?

  3. Michael Natale from MCM Media Sales, May 14, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.

    80% of these shows will be cancelled anyway but they will still pay huge premiums in the upfronts for shows that won't exist past a month!

Next story loading loading..