Pundit Turns Pugnacious: Rips Press, Advises Caution On New Season Coverage

In an advisory sent Wednesday to clients, and at least one member of the press, one of Madison Avenue's most influential TV pundits chastised trade and consumer press coverage of the new TV season as misrepresenting initial results and focusing on the wrong ratings data. The executive, Magna Global Executive Vice President-Audience Analysis Steve Sternberg, cautioned clients to hold their judgments on the new prime-time season until more substantive patterns emerge.

"Many in the press are reporting disappointing returns for several new series," Sternberg wrote, adding, "This is because the press often tends to believe its own buzz-generating reporting (and what people tell them are high internet-buzz shows). But as we've demonstrated time and again, pre-season buzz seldom correlates with new series success."

Sternberg asserted that there have been "virtually no surprises" regarding new series performance, and noted that only one show - NBC's "Bionic Woman" - has outperformed agency share projections, albeit slightly.



Sternberg, who is known as one of the industry's top TV programming pundits, ranking among the top industry execs in industry sound bite polls like Advertising Age's "Media Mavens," turned highly critical of the press's coverage of the new season, implying that some journalists have been sensationalizing results, and focusing on the wrong audience estimates.

"It is important for our clients to understand that press reporting on the new season needs to be taken with a grain of salt - particularly now that they are looking at and reporting on streams of ratings data that are essentially irrelevant to us."

Sternberg noted that the hair trigger nature of entertainment news reporting during the prime-time season has led some journalists to focus on preliminary Nielsen data that is not necessarily representative of the final national ratings estimates, and cautioned clients to focus only on three relevant TV ratings metrics:

* "Live program data is important because that was the currency last season, and we need a base of comparison."

* "Live + 7 days program data is important because it gives us some perspective on how much total viewing for the week is actually taking place, and it provides an indication of how DVR playback (time-shifting) is affecting overall viewership."

* "C3 (Average commercial minute ratings extending to 75 hours after initial broadcast) is important because that's the marketplace currency that was used for most buys this season.

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