Gambling With the New Fall Season

Who can you believe these days -- the TV media buyers or the Internet buzz -- when it comes to new network TV shows?

It's a confusing time for the average TV advertiser when media buyers are panning one show and the Internet gives it a thumbs-up. Although if you had listened to the Internet buzz from last year, you would have bought the under-priced ABC and would have been buzzing with lots of smiles.

Companies have been tracking Internet buzz for sometime with the hope that it will give better odds to advertisers, media buyers, and/or casual observers. Now it is picking up steam. Initiative Media launched a product last year called PropheSEE. VNU publications' Mediaweek and The Hollywood Reporter jointly produce Trendum, which has been operating since 2000.

If you believe Trendum, you shouldn't exactly believe your friendly TV media buyer. For example, many TV buying executives say CBS' new drama "Ghost Whisperer" is destined to fail, as it's an obvious rip-off of NBC's "Medium" and surely not as good.



But Internet buzz doesn't see it that way, according to Trendum.

"Ghost Whisperer" has been first among viewer 'sentiment.' That means positive, negative, or any news in between. Some executives think any press is good press. So far this year, Trendum says "Whisperer" is No. 1, then comes WB's "Supernatural," UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris," CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," and CBS' "Prison Break."

Trendum doesn't claim to be perfect. Too bad. We're all ready to trade TV shows like stocks and want to buy some options on Jerry Bruckheimer's "E-Ring." As a point of reference - and no doubt a disclaimer on its findings - last year Trendum said NBC's "Joey" had the most buzz. Of course, that didn't translate in ratings.

Initiative Media's PropheSEE pointed to the same finding -- that "Joey" had the most buzz going into last season. But also in Initiative's top five buzzed shows were two new ABC shows "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," which went on to become hits. Trendum says it ranked those shows high as well.

This time of year is like any good Texas Hold 'Em tournament -- TV advertisers sometimes go all-in trying to guess new hits. The aim is simple: Buy a new show for cheap in the hope that it becomes a major success. If that happens -- for the first season at least -- some advertisers will have a nice little media profit (in terms of cost per thousand viewers).

Of course, if your TV hand busts at the networks, just like casinos, they will always buy you a drink or lunch and ask you to come back soon.

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