Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Morning QBing Ad Rates

Note: I started working on this post a few weeks back, almost immediately after I finished my exploration of the viewers/demos debate, but shelved it because for some reason it just didn't seem to have any real message, and the method is kinda shaky. I thought I might come back and spruce it up later, but I've decided to just go ahead and post the draft, and maybe someone will find it interesting.

Everybody's got an opinion on how any given fall season's crop of new TV shows will do. But the opinions that matter most are those agreed upon by networks and advertisers to sell TV spots. We're only about halfway through the new season, but I thought I'd do a little Monday morning quarterbacking and see how they've done so far.

My last series of posts used '08-'09 ratings and Ad Age's estimates for fall 2009 ad rates to illustrate that the A18-49 demo is, if not a direct cause, then a good indicator of ad rates. I stuck to shows in the same timeslot both seasons to try to limit speculation. This time it's all about speculation, using the price-per-demo averages I got from the last posts to try to estimate what they estimated about new shows. Since I'm only looking at scripted shows, I'm going to use the average price per demo point among scripted shows in the same timeslot, which was $41,165.29. Note that's a bit higher than the $40,207.62 per point across scripted and nonscripted, meaning scripted is a bit more valuable. (More on that in a future post, maybe.)

To get the speculated demo or "spec," I'm dividing the ad price by $41,165.29. "Demo" is the average of all originals this season (thru the week ending 12/13).

Price Spec Demo Diff
Eastwick 110558 2.7 1.8 -33%
Flashforward 175724 4.3 2.9 -31%
Brothers 54157 1.3 0.9 -30%
Hank 91167 2.2 1.6 -27%
Three Rivers 95633 2.3 1.8 -24%
Community 120000 2.9 2.3 -20%
The Forgotten 97527 2.4 1.9 -19%
Mercy 91172 2.2 1.9 -14%
The Middle 97812 2.4 2.1 -10%
The Good Wife 126882 3.1 2.9 -7%
Cleveland 158701 3.9 3.8 -1%
Trauma 75928 1.8 1.8 -1%
Glee 127350 3.1 3.3 +7%
Modern Fam 130388 3.2 3.6 +12%
AccOnPurpose 107817 2.6 3.0 +15%
Cougar Town 103314 2.5 3.2 +26%
V 110450 2.7 3.8 +42%
NCIS: LA 106508 2.6 3.8 +48%


Instead of trying to find a trend in the whole list, which is tough when there are shows being undersold by 40%+ and oversold by 30%+, I'm gonna break it down into a few points.

The 10pm hour
- The projections concerning Jay Leno are some of the most interesting things to me about all the ad rate stuff I've looked at. Let me first of all bring in Jay's ad rates.

Price Spec Demo Diff
Leno (Mon.) 53640 1.5 1.4 -2%
Leno (Tues.) 65678 1.8 2.1 +16%
Leno (Wed.) 62012 1.7 1.6 -6%
Leno (Thurs.) 57295 1.6 1.6 +2%
Leno (Fri.) 48803 1.3 1.3 0%


*- I'm not including Jay's premiere week, because it was much more inflated than the average premiere. For example, his Monday premiere drove the Monday average up more than 0.3 by itself! I think these are much more indicative of his "true strength."

First thing to be noted is that while a lot of people have made Jay out to be an absolutely colossal disappointment, if you go by the unscripted average per demo (which is what I applied to get the Spec) the advertisers pretty much saw it coming. He's right where they thought he'd be on most days, and throwing in his better-than-expected showing after The Biggest Loser and that huge premiere week (which, again, isn't included), they almost certainly aren't going to be all that upset.

But while the ad buyers did have Leno pretty well pegged, they messed up on everything else at 10pm. It seems they bought into the widely held belief that Leno's arrival would throw a bunch of 10pm NBC drama watchers into the mix, boosting the numbers for the other two nets. Of the three new 10pm dramas, they guessed too high on all of them. They probably would've been farther off on The Good Wife, but they underestimated its lead-in to such a great extent that it looks closer. Still, they had TGW building by about a half point in the demo on an NCIS spin-off that was airing directly out of the original. Pretty high praise, and the show hasn't lived up to that standard.

And that isn't the only evidence; Numb3rs fetches more dollars than the usually stronger Ghost Whisperer. CSI:NY, which almost always declined out of Criminal Minds, outdid it in the ads department. (You could say that L&O and SVU competition drove those speculations downward, I guess....) Private Practice was another returning show projected to do much better at 10pm. Maybe shares are a big piece of the puzzle, meaning there's a premium on shows in the lower-Households-Using-TV 10pm hour, but still, mistakes were made. Even looking at share, TGW hasn't been as strong as NCIS:LA and CSI:NY hasn't been as strong as CM.

ABC drama disappointments - It kinda ties in with the previous point about 10pm, since The Forgotten and Eastwick were part of that mix, but all the new dramas for fall on ABC have ugly differences. I don't really know where the bar is for make-goods, the payments made back to advertisers when something drastically underperforms, but I feel pretty confident that all three ABC fall dramas falling 19%+ below expectations means some of those are gonna come. The big speculation for The Forgotten largely resulted from them overpaying for the weakening DWTS Results show on Tuesday. They went way overboard on Flashforward, which they thought would average over a 4.0 (or maybe a bit lower with huge A18-34s) but only premiered with a 4.0 and has slowly but surely gone way down. That percentage difference looks bad now, and its season-long average is only going to get worse barring some kind of miracle.

The only good news on the hourlong front was the four-ep run of V, which vastly outdid expectations. The huge pilot ratings inflate that more than usual since there are only four data points, but even just going with the last two weeks (3.1) it's ahead of projections. Now we've got to see how it does after Lost this spring.

ABC Comedy Wednesday - I'd be scared to death to pay money to advertise on a night with five new shows, where there's such a huge spectrum of possible outcomes, but at least for the four comedies, they got the structure of the night fairly well. They were way off on Hank, but generally correct that it would be a night led by Modern Family. MF and Cougar Town both turned out stronger than even they expected, and The Middle a bit weaker (though with a stronger Hank lead-in they may have been almost exactly right), but outside of Hank they had a decent grasp on what would happen here.

Advertisers in the NCIS duo are happy - The NCIS mothership, one of the oldest-skewing shows on TV, fetched $133,304, which translated to about a 3.3 expected demo, down around 10% from last season's average. Instead, the show so far has been way up from last year, usually well into the 4's, and it's brought its spinoff with it. The ads on NCIS:LA went for about 80% of the mothership's on average, and retention-wise that's about right, but in retrospect, it still seems these shows should've gotten a lot more, even if they're really light on A18-34. (Which seems pretty likely considering how colossal their P2+ numbers are.) Spending less than $110k for an ad on NCIS:LA which often approaches 4 in the demo is quite a steal.

In general, as I said at the beginning, it's tough to come up with a sweeping statement about how they did, but with only a few exceptions (Flashforward, Eastwick, NCIS:LA being the really glaring ones) they seemed to have some general idea about how shows would do. It's just that a lot of the shows picked to struggle actually struggled much worse. Makes sense, because why would a network greenlight a show that they can't sell as anything more than a massive bomb?

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