ESPN's two networks--ESPN2 and ESPN--were the top nets, with ESPN2 actually over-delivering its commercial ratings as compared with its program ratings--meaning that more people were watching the commercials than the program content.
"It's because people are tuning in and out of live games," says Jess Aguirre, senior vice president of research for Hallmark Channel, who released analysis based on Nielsen Media Research Npower and Power Play data.
Sports programming is mostly live, and viewers tune in and out with a lot of frequency. That can lead to higher commercial ratings than program ratings. ESPN2, for example, scored 102%, each for its 18-49 viewers and 25-54 viewers.
Among all TV households, ESPN2 was first with 104%, then ESPN with a 97.7%, Nick At Nite at 96.6%, Adult Swim at 95.9%, Nickelodeon at 95.8%, and Hallmark Channel at 95.7%. The analysis was based on commercial ratings plus three days of DVR playback data.
Hallmark's Aguirre wasn't surprised about Hallmark's high ranking--it is comparable to what Hallmark has been getting for some time. Older viewers--the kind who watch networks such as Hallmark--tend to switch channels less than younger viewers, he explained. Other older-skewing networks also scored well--Home & Garden Network (9th place, 95%) and Fox News Network (12th place, 94%).
Commercial retention among the broadcast networks landed in the middle of the pack of some 50 networks--cable and broadcast. Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS had a virtually identical retention score: 93% among all TV households. In looking at 18-49 and 25-54 viewers, the broadcast networks fared a bit worse--anywhere from 9% to 11% under their respective program ratings.
"Typically, there is a 5% to 7% drop [for all TV networks], live program to live commercial rating. These are just people who surf," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director of Horizon Media. "This [new] data includes those who surf and play back, so it incorporates zapping."
As expected, the Viacom networks were at the bottom of the pack--MTV at 43rd place, retaining 86% of its 18-49 viewers; MTV2 at 85.4%, and VH1 at 84.9%. Ranked dead last was MSNBC--in 51st place, at 81.4%.
All media analysts warn that this is only the first week of data--the first week of the TV season. "Keep in mind that on a 103 index, the 0.3 rating is just statistical noise," says Steve Sternberg, executive vice president of audience analysis for Magna Global USA. "Percentages on such small numbers don't mean anything. A 103 index one week can easily be 93 the next."