Paramount Network's 'Yellowstone,' Spinoff '1883' Ratings Soar, But What Metric Applies To All Shows?

Paramount Network’s “1883,” a spinoff of the network’s “Yellowstone,” earned the biggest viewership for an original cable TV show since 2015 with 4.9 million viewers. It also ran on sister ViacomCBS’ CMT network, which pulled in another 609,000 viewers.

A couple of weeks before, mothership “Yellowstone” pulled in a massive 14.7 million viewers for its season four debut. We haven’t seen regular 14+ million numbers from a cable TV show since the heyday of “The Walking Dead” on AMC Network.

But... wait. Those 14.7 million "Yellowstone" viewers were across four ViacomCBS networks: Paramount Network, CMT, POP, TV Land -- this from Nielsen’s live program plus three days of time-shifted metric. Is it comparable to traditional metrics?



Yes, we are in a different TV-video ecosystem these days. All the traditional time-shifted access points, as well as newer video on demand streaming platforms. Plus, we also recognized far more competition.

So what to compare “Yellowstone” and “1883” to? What we need is a metric that everyone could understand.

What if you had a measurement similar to what theatrical movies have on Monday morning after a weekend of in-theater viewership?

Sony Pictures’ recent “Spider-Man: No Way Home” pulled in $243 million dollars over its opening three-day weekend, third-best ever for a theatrical movie.

No doubt the “Spider-Man" movie producers understand that measure and their ability to get hired to make more films. TV producers have Nielsen metrics as their currency; it's the performance basis for future TV shows.

A few years ago, TV Watch attempted to understand this -- offering a rough idea of how a particular TV episode of a TV series performs -- as an estimate.

If a top show can pull in $250,000 for a 30-second spot, with 20 national 30-second advertising spots in an hour drama, that would mean a $5 million take for the evening.

Of course, no TV network would ever provide near or actual dollars from total advertising per episode. Estimates would be needed. Even then, you might say this isn’t enough.

What about the dollar value one could attribute for the show’s ability to pull in a certain level of retransmission/distribution fees? Also, what about the monetary value of the program that followed a successful show?

We all know what TV producers/executives seek: engagement. That means not only who is watching, but how sticky it will be for viewers in future episodes and seasons. We all know what TV advertisers want in supporting these TV shows -- that viewers will buy their products, now and in the future.

What becomes increasingly cloudy is what metric to put on a TV show or movie in context with other content -- whether it is on Netflix, Fox, HBO Max, NBC, CMT, or a collection of networks running an episode at the same time.

1 comment about "Paramount Network's 'Yellowstone,' Spinoff '1883' Ratings Soar, But What Metric Applies To All Shows?".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, December 24, 2021 at 4:12 p.m.

    Wayne, you raise some really good issues.

    In particular your comment that "Those 14.7 million "Yellowstone" viewers were across four ViacomCBS networks" resonated with me.

    The practice of aggregating different platform audience data (leaving aside inconsistencies in how they are measured) is OK when the content is synchronous and acceptable with a slight delay (the +3 days could include multiple viewings by the same person via streaming) as the market is now all about viewer choice of time and platform.

    But then I wondered what would happen if the delay was changed.   Consider what the audience for I Love Lucy would be by now.   Probably about 10x the global population.   We must keep in mind that the ratings are the basis for advertising purposes and that should drive the delay factor.

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