In TV ratings parlance, what’s the make-good situation on that? Answer: There isn’t any (though some pent-up demand might dribble back).
For the most part, this is unlike what broadcast networks go through -- because TV advertisers have audience guarantees. Media money is accountable somewhere.
Last year those guarantees put some networks into difficult situations, as average key audiences for major broadcasters were down double-digit percentages. Among other things, this meant less quarter-by-quarter scatter inventory to sell.
This season is just getting started. At first blush -- the first week of the new season -- there was actually a slight viewership improvement of around 2& year-to-year, at least based on Nielsen C3 metrics (commercial ratings plus three days of time shifting).
But it probably won’t stay that way.
C3 numbers now seem to follow live-program-plus-same-day ratings in terms of percentage changes. And through the first three weeks of the season, overall average numbers for the four major English-language networks were down 3.4% -- to a 2.25 rating among 18-49 viewers. (In total viewers, the four networks were slightly higher than a year ago – a 0.4% gain to 8.11 million.)
Still, the networks have seen an overall better-looking picture than a year ago when they witnessed double-digit declines in the initial weeks of C3 ratings. If this year’s better numbers hold up, it will mean less make-good inventory -- and a better chance for networks to sell a bit more inventory.
Then again some media executives believe upfront price hikes were a bit higher than they should have been, which could mean a dampening of TV sales activity.
In any event many TV marketplaces seem more orderly than a decade or so ago. Who has the upper hand? Networks and their “scarcity” play? Or media buying executives with seemingly more predictable media budgets from their clients? Albeit with some last minute go-ahead decisions.
The stock market seemingly acted along these lines over the last few days -- with, what else, a last minute go-ahead decision by Congress to keep the government going and raise the debt. Some say it was a “guarantee” for sure -- that the Federal government was going to pay for what was already agreed to.
Unlike traditional media, digital media platforms might tell marketers they only need to pay for what is delivered. But then questions of scale and reach come into play.
Ratings guarantees are still a precious component for national TV deals these days -- good for any network downturn, but not shutdown, situation.