Report: TV Needs To Be Risky Business

Could playing safe with programming make the TV networks sorry? It sure could according to a new audience research study.

Media Viewers 2003, is anew study by Miller Williams Inc., that draws the conclusion that most TV networks are so engulfed in competing with each other for the coveted 18-49 demographic, that they are losing their touch with what that demographic actually wants. Therefore some networks are growing revenue from ads, but losing audience. Example: NBC has placed five shows in the Nielsen top ten, and command top dollar on shows like Friends, but it lost 174,000 viewers last year.

“By examining behavioral patters of viewers and determining what drives them to watch certain programs, television networks are better able to keep viewers loyal and gain new viewers. This in turn provides them with valuable information to share with corporate advertisers so they can more effectively target their messages,” the report states.

By contrast the WB – with shows like Charmed and Smallville – grew its audience by 44% last year, adding 1.2 million viewers. The WB has built on a factor that the M-W study says is most important to viewers: Network Image.



Viewers expect a network to stand for something, and deliver consistently on what they promise,” the report states. “Disney continues to maintain its impeccable network image, while Fox and WB are continuing to build upon their increasingly stronger image. Note that NBC and CBS rank lower in this category – viewers no longer grasp what these networks stand for.”

Surprsingly the lowest factor in viewer’s mind’s in judging a network is originality. The M-W analysts however view this an area to be exploited rather than a measurement that means viewer’s disregard content quality.

Finally, the report urges networks to step up the risk factor in programming. “Hint – it won’t be the network playing it safe and focusing their energy on meeting less than 50% of viewers’ needs. Look for the network that targets its viewers and starts providing original content. Who would’ve thought that a show about an alien landing in an eggshell near Colorado would be a hit? Or a comedy about GIs in a Nazi prisoner of war camp could capture audiences? Maybe ABC and CBS should revisit the time that they took a chance with these two shows – Mork and Mindy and Hogan’s Heroes remain in a class of their own to this day.”

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