'Cops,' 'Extreme Makeover' Score Viewer Ad Retention

New research offers hints at which shows provide the highest levels of viewer engagement--an admittedly hard-to-gauge metric--with both their ads and content. A six-month study from Simmons reveals that ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," NBC drama "Friday Night Lights" and Fox's "Cops" score well in consumer interest and intent to purchase levels regarding the spots running in them.

A total of 16,500 18- to-49-year-olds were interviewed over a period of six months through April 2007, in a category labeled "ad attention/receptivity." Those watching "Extreme Makeover" said they were 33% more likely than viewers of the average Big 4 prime-time show to take an interest in its spots and buy the products plugged.

"Friday Night Lights" had survey respondents saying they were 15% more likely, with "Cops" coming in at 13%. Fox's NFL coverage--which only airs for part of the year and may be less susceptible to DVR-enabled ad-skipping--followed "Extreme Makeover" at the top, with viewers saying they were 29% more likely.



Television's most-watched show "American Idol" had viewers saying they were 10% more likely to be interested in its spots and purchase the products they plug than the average.

A range of series that have been canceled or finished their run also scored in the top 20, including ABC's "Help Me Help You" and "Big Day" as well as Fox's "The OC" and CBS's "King of Queens."

The interest and intent to purchase findings from the Simmons Multi-Media Engagement study, which several broadcast and multiple cable networks receive, provides some--although hardly fail-safe--insight into which shows offer the highest levels of viewer engagement. They could reveal some insight into which shows retain the largest percentage of viewers during ad breaks, making them well-positioned to perform impressively with the new commercial ratings.

Another category, or engagement dimension, in the research indicates that shows with often uplifting story lines--building a house for the needy, treating the sick and nabbing criminals, for example--post high engagement scores with the content, which can have a runoff effect as to how 18-to-49 viewers feel about the ads.

In a category called "Inspirational," which gauges how the content connects with consumers on an emotional level, "Extreme Makeover" viewers were 60% more likely to be "moved," 31% with "ER," 25% with fellow NBC drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and CBS' "Ghost Whisperer."

Other catch-a-criminal shows that score high are the scripted: "Without a Trace" and reality program "America's Most Wanted."

While engagement with the content is not necessarily an indication of interest in the ads, Simmons has research showing viewers who find the show compelling are more likely to be impacted by the spots running in it.

In a related category, "personal timeout"--which gauges which shows most improve a viewer's mood after spending some alone time watching--a comedy scored highest. The uplifting "Extreme Makeover" also scored well. But two popular dramas, ABC's "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy," did well, too--perhaps because people carve out the downtime to enjoy them.

"Scrubs" viewers were 16% more likely than average to say the show offered a mood boost; "Lost" and "Grey's" came in at 14%, with "Extreme Makeover" posting a slightly lower 13%.

Three other shows with a comedic orientation also did well at 13% above average, NBC's "My Name is Earl," Fox's "Family Guy" and ABC's stalwart "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Would viewers be more likely to engage with ads when they're feeling uplifted? Research says yes.

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