How To Judge A Show This Season: By All The Numbers

Broadcast networks this season will probably see even lower overall traditional ratings.

The good news is that they can muse about how much nontraditional viewing -- digital video, time-shifting and video-on-demand -- will increase. Future thinking on this front will set a structure for monetization. Near-term, though, a question remains: How should TV analysts view series performance?

The four networks held a press briefing on Monday at Fox to lay some groundwork for the changing new digital world. Increasingly, broadcast networks want to talk up all their viewing -- to advertisers, to producers, and to business journalists who cover television.

“All” viewing means going well beyond live-program-plus-same-day time-shifting to include three, four, seven, and -- in the case of Fox, ABC  and others --- 35 days of viewing.  And that includes streaming and/or video-on-demand as well as time-shifting.



Here’s the rub: A staple of the TV business press is daily ratings analysis. For the most part, that has meant live program ratings – and, more recently, live program plus same-day time-shifted ratings.

For a while now, network executives have said this isn’t a good measure. At best, according to Joe Earley, COO of Fox, it’s an “early indicator.” But certainly not nearly a final say.

For a couple of years now, broadcast networks have talked up live program plus seven days of time-shifted viewing -- where the likes of ABC’s “Modern Family,” CBS’ “Elementary” or Fox’s “The Following” get 30-40% or more of their viewing on a time-shifted basis. Young -skewing shows – such as those on the CW and Fox’s “New Girl” -- can get 50% and more.

The trouble is that advertisers still pay just for up to three days of time-shifting. Specifically they pay for national average commercial minute ratings plus three days of time-shifting (C3).

Broadcast networks believe lots of money is being left on the table. They would like to see advertisers pay not only for seven days of traditional  viewing, but for all TV/video viewing, no matter when a  program is seen.

The question is: How does one measure a program’s success then, and over what time frame? The answer is fuzzy. Increasingly, producers and advertisers need to play a waiting game of undetermined duration.

Specifically, broadcast networks would like the business press not to make quick conclusions about initially low-rated shows.  The issue is already complicated, with C3 ratings now delivered about every two and half weeks. At the same time, networks can deliver bigger volumes of “big” data about digital video usage on a daily basis.

Should networks, producers and advertisers wait for each program episode to be sampled for 30 days or more -- taking in all metrics from all platforms -- before making decisions?

Some feel networks should adopt a Netflix model by not disclosing any viewer usage/data for its content. What does that mean for TV analysts? More guesswork -- and wrong conclusions.

2 comments about "How To Judge A Show This Season: By All The Numbers".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 10, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.

    From the original article, it's clear that Joe Earley was only joking about a Netflix model. Fox cannot sell commercials without demonstrating their worth. Netflix, however, is not a commercial network.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 10, 2013 at 7:38 p.m.

    How in the name of Arbitron did TV ever get bought and sold before computers ? How in the world did TV commercials ever sell anything ? Ahhh, choice of communications and entertainment limitations may be the answer. Perhaps cutting choices would save the networks loads of money on all facets.

Next story loading loading..