Wednesday, July 20, 2011

True Strength: Rating Changes During Weekends/Holidays

Awhile back, I looked at how much the overall TV viewing increases or declines when there's a big "event." We've since gone in a couple other directions, but now, we're going to circle back and zone in on how individual shows, rather than the entire landscape, fare in those same situations.

The Formula So Far

OK, so here's what we've come up with so far.

PUT-Adjusted True Strength = A18-49 rating * Early Fall Hype * 33.805 / (PUT * Old Methodology Adjustment)

Early Fall Hype = 0.948 (if in the first six weeks of the season)

Old Methodology Adjustment = 1.270 - (0.046 * hour) (if date is 3/28/2011 or later)

The A18-49 divided by PUT part is explained here. It strikes me that this initial formula is basically a glorified version of "share," but that's OK because I've long had a feeling there was some value to that number, and I've made some key adjustments to (hopefully) improve it, and there are still more to come.

(The 33.805 constant is an estimated average Old Methodology PUT. It creates a ratio with the actual PUT to create a number relatively close to an actual rating.)

The top formula above is what I will use for "TS" in this post and going forward until whenever I do another "The Formula So Far" section.

Negative Events

In an earlier post, we examined what happened to overall viewing levels during some of the most obvious "Non-TV Events" or "Negative Events" during the regular season. Those mostly break down into holidays and weekends. Now we're going to look at how ratings are affected in those same situations.

I did a Spotlight post a few months back as Fringe was preparing for a Friday move looking at how much a lot of shows did in their moves to Friday. Unfortunately, most of those aren't terribly helpful because they involve a show moving between seasons, and the whole premise of the True Strength project is that True Strength (mostly) changes between seasons, not within seasons. Most of those shows that moved to Friday probably would've dropped even if left in their original timeslots, so we can't really estimate how much more the Friday move contributed.

Good Faith

There are really only a handful of strong "good faith" efforts at programming both the weekend and the midweek with the same show within the 2010-11 season. And the only good entertainment example in terms of being regularly scheduled in two very different-PUT situations is the one mentioned above: Fringe.


18-49 PUT TS
Fall Thu 1.88 37.32 1.66
W/S Fri 1.47 30.51 1.62
Change -22% -18% -2%

This one actually correlates pretty close between rating and overall viewing. The overall viewing in Fringe's timeslot dropped 18% and Fringe dropped 22%. Using our first and most rudimentary "True Strength" calculation above, we see that Fringe was only 2% weaker on Friday than on Thursday. And that 2% may well be explained by the weaker lead-in (Kitchen Nightmares vs. Bones).

The only other real "good faith" example on the weekends is championship sports, where hypothetically the games should be on a pretty level playing field outside of the overall viewing. But those few championships which actually do air on the weekends take much bigger than expected drops.

World Series

18-49 PUT TS
Gms 2&4 4.15 36.74 3.62
Gm3 Sat 2.9 27.69 3.36
Change -30% -25% -7%

Stanley Cup

18-49 PUT TS
Gms 1&6 1.90 33.59 1.91
Gms 2&5 1.45 27.24 1.80
Change -24% -19% -6%

Once again, the difference between the ratings gap and the viewing gap is not that big, but it's certainly a little bigger than with Fringe.

The other good place to find "good faith efforts," as we found before, is on a couple select holidays. What's nice about these comparisons is that the shows are airing in their regular timeslots, it's just that the PUT happens to be a lot lower. So let's see how ratings, PUT, and the PUT-adjusted ratings hold up on those days with the "good faith" programming. These changes compare the ratings/viewing on the holiday with the ratings/viewing from the surrounding originals, in other words the one original before and the one original after each of these airings.

Thanksgiving Eve

18-49 PUT TS
Modern Family -18% -16% -2%
The Middle -15% -16% +1%
Better with You -16% -16% +1%
Cougar Town -14% -17% +3%
Human Target -18% -13% -5%
Hell's Kitchen -15% -15% +0%
AVERAGE -16% -16% -0.4%

St. Patrick's Day

18-49 PUT TS
American Idol Th -13% -13% +0%
Bones +3% -5% +9%
Community -6% -13% +8%
Perfect Couples -20% -13% -9%
Parks & Recreation -25% -11% -15%
30 Rock -19% -11% -9%
Outsourced -3% -9% +6%
Winter Wipeout -7% -13% +7%
AVERAGE -11% -11% -0.6%

Again, the "true strength" is a very little bit weaker than average, but probably not by enough of an amount to mean much. St. Patrick's Day was particularly variable, but I think that can be attributed more to the general wonkiness of the day (NBC didn't have an Office original, which hurt Parks and 30 Rock, but the lack of that and Grey's and CSI helped Bones which had way below average competition). Ultimately, it all averaged out so that the rating and viewing drops were pretty close, and they were about even with by far the biggest program of the evening (Idol).

What's this mean? In the few big "non-TV events" where the networks make considerable "good faith" efforts, it seems that the correlation between percent viewing drops and percent rating drops is close enough that there's no compelling reason to change the formula I came up with earlier. Ratings drops and viewing drops match up relatively closely. The sporting events did take a little bigger than "expected" drop using this system, but I'm starting to think sports ratings are just plain weird in every way. More on that when we get into competition.

Bad Faith

When I initially started looking at some big "non-TV event" comparisons, I was kinda worried that things wouldn't match up quite as well as they ultimately did in the above examples. Why is that? I think it was because I was looking at a bunch of "bad faith" examples, shows that are clearly being burned off and/or scheduled at the last minute and aren't getting the promotional support that a "good faith" effort would.

I think I might revisit the "special airing" once everything else in this project is in place, but here's a quick look at what I'm talking about.

18-49 PUT TS
Chase -42% -32% -14%
Human Target -26% -14% -14%
No Ordinary Family -33% -7% -28%
Outlaw -47% +4% -48%

Typically new shows are less "resilient" to big viewing changes anyway, and these shows didn't just weaken as much as the viewing dictated; they weakened a lot more. The most affected was Outlaw, which had only aired three episodes before getting relegated to Saturday, so you'd naturally think it'd be the one worst at handling the change. Anyway, I may have some more on this stuff later, but just thought it was worth mentioning as there are a few big exceptions to the viewing/ratings correlation.

Positive Events

Long ago (or at least it seems that way), I explored the viewing effects of "TV Events" or "Positive Events," which are huge TV occurrences that lots of people flock to watch. As we observed, the vast majority of the overall viewing increase doesn't come out of "Thin Air"; it comes from other programs that people would've been watching in a world without that event. So how are those programs affected? That's what we'll begin with as we look at Competition, step two of our three-step process to coming up with a real formula. (In case you haven't been following along at home, step one is viewing levels, step three is lead-ins.)

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