Commentary

Best-Performing TV Shows? Look To Ad Revs, Not Ratings

TV networks would love for business reporters to stop writing about TV ratings -- especially stories that only look at next-day ratings.

Networks all want media executives to consider viewership totals that include not just one overnight airing -- but three, seven, 30 days, as well as digital and SVOD airings. All that can get -- what else? -- a bigger number.

But I’ll go them one better. We should speak to a metric everyone can understand: dollars and cents. (Yes, “sense” as well.)

What were the best TV programs on Monday?  Those shows that pulled in the most revenue: specifically, advertising revenue. (We’ll leave other revenue associated with TV shows aside for the moment).

This Monday, July 13, Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” took in the most: $8.37 million. ABC’s “The Bachelorette” was next, with $8.30 million; NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” was in third place, at $5.83 million, according to iSpot.TV.

Other good performers with original content: NBC’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” with $3.13 million, while ABC’s “The Whispers” took in $2.5 million.

CBS had all repeats: “Scorpion” was at $1.3 million; “Mike & Molly,” $1.3 million as well; “NCIS: Los Angeles,” $1.14 million; and “2 Broke Girls,” $1.02 million.

I know what you’re thinking: Why is iSpot.TV’s estimated research efforts better than Nielsen’s national panel of 25,000 TV homes?

Well, all things being equal (maybe less than equal for some industry watchers), we need to shift our gaze, and consider outside-the-box metrics for a clearer view of how TV shows are performing.

Some of the ad revenue winners make sense in light of their ratings as well. For example, “The Bachelorette” had the highest 18-49 ratings of any show on the night -- a 2.0 rating, as well as averaging just around 7 million viewers, also tops on the night. Then again, “So You Think You Can Dance?” averaged half that of “Bachelorette” numbers: a 1.0 rating among 18-49, with around 3.2 million overall viewers.

New digital TV measurers obviously will no doubt have other metrics to shout about:  number of tweets; content sharers; those who “engage” more than others; and those who buy some consumer products over other consumer products.

But, in an ever-more-confusing array of business marketing and consumer metrics, what is better than at least considering some numbers attached to dollar signs?

9 comments about "Best-Performing TV Shows? Look To Ad Revs, Not Ratings".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Michael Pursel from Pursel Advertising, July 15, 2015 at 3:45 p.m.

    In my market, we use RENTRAK numbers to help place our TV and Cable buys.  We measure over 30,000 households daily/weekly.  And Nielsen?   The numbers are based on WHAT channel you watched for at least one minute.  Very revealing.  And that is one reason why we continue to put at least 70% of our clients money on Broadcast and Cable.  Sorry to all the TV Is Dead crowd.  You need to look at different numbers. like Wayne explained.

  2. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, July 15, 2015 at 4:49 p.m.

    As much as total viewership is relatively meaningless, so is ad revenues received. What matters in virtually every other industry is profitability, and neither of these metrics gives much insight. Is $1.3 million for a rerun of Scorpion profitable for the network? How about for the studio? What's the ROI on "So You Think You Can Dance" vs. "Scorpion"? 


    It's like the market for smartphones. Does it matter than Samsung has a huge rating (aka market share) when Apple scores all the profit?

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 15, 2015 at 5:26 p.m.

    Mike, aside from the fact that Rentrak has a much larger panel than Nielsen, to be fair, Nielsen's NSI service reports on average quarter hour viewership per program, as well as doing cumes which are usually special tabs. I'm not aware of any Nielsen local market rating report that shows audiences for cable or stations on a watched for one minute basis. If you mean that Nielsen's average quarter hour ratings are not tallied on an average minute basis but are "total audience"-based, that's not surprising if you happen to be in a diary market where the measurement simply can't deliver more granular data.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 15, 2015 at 5:31 p.m.

    @Michael, agreed.As it happens, the most profitable shows on the broadcast TV networks have always been the early AM news/talk entries, the daytime stuff and the late night talk/variety shows. These never get the kinds of ratings that the primetime schedules attain, but the latter are, in many cases, money losers or operate at bare breakeven---making money only when the networks rerun their episodes.

  5. Rick Thomas from MediaRich Marketing, July 15, 2015 at 10:12 p.m.

    Ratings used to equal revenue back in the day.  What matters now?  Don't advertisers drill down who they target based on not just audience figures but the qualitative profile of the viewer?  In my days at CBS Radio we sold on the value of the upscale listener and asked for higher rates because of their status.  So there are a lot more elements that go in to buying ad time than just pure, raw numbers.

    60 Minutes has more value to BMW than American Idol and America Idol has a few times more the audience.  Coca Cola has more value to the American Idol audience than 60 Minutes.  A lot more factors have to be considered than just the number of people watching a certain show. 

    The writer needs to dig deeper and look in to other metrics as a sales person who pitches these shows to ad agencies.  Wayne is on target from a general perspective but more needs to be considered and more here is not considered. 

  6. Joe Germscheid from JG, July 16, 2015 at 2:22 p.m.

    The best and most consistent metric has always been the client's business outcome.

    Data and methodologies exist to begin measuring and closing the loop between advertising media and sales. Of course those metrics will be proprietary to each client. But great planners using powerful data can already predict how much of their client's target audience will be watching that particular programming. TV has a finite amount of ad time per program. The market value of those programs (and networks) will increase once multiple advertisers compete for those valuable audiences. 

    Why continue to use ratings as a proxy for client's commercial success when real sales are available?

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 16, 2015 at 2:46 p.m.

    Joe, can you tell me what source you are referring to when you say "real sales" are available---I assume on a telecast by telecast basis for every network TV show, syndicated TV show and cable show?

    And even if this ongoing, constantly updated and projected into the future---for upfront buys----source existed, how would an advertiser use it if the sellers refused to allow the buyers to pick out only those shows they wanted at the lowest CPMs? Going one step farther, even if the sellers operated in this way, how would a buyer know when to stop adding targeted impressions? Wouldn't the buyer have to have some sort of reach and frequency plan in mind, keyed to his client's media budget, so when the right melding of reach and frequency was attained, he would have bought enough impressions and would stop? Since reach times frequency equals GRPS, of course we would still have GRPs---only under your vision, they would refer to product users or purchases, not age and sex.

  8. Joe Germscheid from JG, July 16, 2015 at 3:52 p.m.

    Ed, the "real sales" are derived from 1st and 3rd party sales sources (client records and credit card HH purchases (scrubbed for privacy) matched to set top box viewership. That's where the real ROI lives. Matching what effect the ad unit shown has on actual client business outcomes.

    As for the how this invididual advertising value on a show basis can be applied to the TV ecosystem, I personally don't think that the upfront marketplace is going away anytime soon. The highest reaching programming will still be the most desireable, and sellers will package it as they see fit. Buyers will need to be more active in the packaging of that programming to control those R/F Impression limits. They will be governed by the ROI expectations of their clients. Software is already available to help with that kind of planning. It can only become better. That's the promise of programmatic TV. How we as marketers evolve the ecosystem of TV to work with new data and business outcomes is what the industry is freaking out about right now. The agencies and networks have resisted change, but they are starting to come around...slowly.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 16, 2015 at 4:32 p.m.

    Joe, the basic problem with set top box "viewership" is that these "big data" panels are capable of measuring set usage only----not viewing. Household set usage ratings will give one the impression that many TV shows are targeting younger and relatively more afluent homes to a far greater extent than older and lower income homes, when, in fact, exactly the opposite is the case for the adults living in said homes.So, when you apply third party "marketing/sales data to set top box ratings, then project the resulting indices to Nielsen's panel, you will get extremely misleading results. So far, no one has come up with a solution to this problem. Until it is fixed, this part of the equation is badly flawed.

    Otherwise, I agree with you about the potential of computerized models to help in the media planning process as well as in allocating upfront buys to various brands in a corporate stable.

Next story loading loading..