Thursday, August 11, 2011

True Strength: Lead-Ins 101 - Half-Hour Shows

From what I've seen of 15-minute breakdowns of shows that air after huge lead-ins, it seems most of the boost that a show gets from the lead-in comes in the first fifteen minutes. From there, the show is relatively steady; perhaps it's steady at a number that's higher than it'd have gotten with no lead-in (in other words, there are people who stick around because of the lead-in), but it's relatively steady. Most of the rendering of the verdict on the show (or "tune-out") takes 15 minutes or less. So a disproportionately high portion of the boost (but not all) comes in the first fifteen minutes.

It stands to reason, then, that the "boost" from a big lead-in is less impactful the longer the show lasts; those fifteen most "boosted" minutes make up a smaller and smaller fraction of the show's length as the length increases.

How much?

The Formula So Far

Here's what we have as we start into the third and final of the "big three" adjustments:

Competition-Adjusted True Strength = A18-49 rating * Early Fall Hype * 34.12 * ( 1 + (Competition Adjustment * (bcPUT - Expected bcPUT))) / (PUT * Old Methodology Adjustment)

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

Old Methodology Adjustment = 0.968 in the 8:00 hour, 0.929 in the 9:00 hour, 0.901 in the 10:00 hour (if date is 3/28/2011 or later)

The A18-49 rating divided by PUT part is explained here. PUT = an estimation of the percentage of TV-owning adults 18-49 persons using TV in the timeslot.

The 34.12 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. This number was 33.805 originally, then recalculated as 33.75; a recent tweak to the methodology adjustment then saw it go up to its current 34.12.

Competition Adjustment = 0.0375

bcPUT = Sum of known broadcast PUT-TS in the timeslot (plus an additional 3.54 in the 10:00 hour, and sports shows count as 1/2 their PUT-TS)

Expected bcPUT = 0.30 * PUT (if Sunday to Thursday) OR 0.23 * PUT (if Friday or Saturday)

Half-Hour Shows

This chart looks at the change in Competition-Adjusted True Strength as a percentage of the change in lead-in. As always, I try to look at big changes in lead-ins. Usually my standard is at least a 1.0 change in lead-in.

Small Big Change

Lead Com-TS Lead Com-TS Lead Com-TS %
Better with You 1.83 1.73 4.54 1.81 +2.72 +0.08 3%
Raising Hope 4.84 2.46 8.47 3.14 +3.63 +0.68 19%
Traffic Light 2.46 1.40 8.88 2.57 +6.43 +1.17 18%
$#*! My Dad Says 2.67 2.50 4.59 2.87 +1.92 +0.37 19%
Breaking In 2.22 1.23 8.34 2.23 +6.13 +1.00 16%
Rules of Engagement 2.82 2.59 4.08 2.85 +1.26 +0.25 20%
Mad Love 1.99 2.28 3.29 2.49 +1.30 +0.21 16%
The Simpsons 1.35 2.66 4.64 3.55 +3.29 +0.89 27%
American Dad! 1.15 1.61 2.64 2.04 +1.49 +0.43 29%
Mike & Molly 2.16 2.45 3.53 2.79 +1.37 +0.34 24%
Mr. Sunshine 2.31 1.66 4.64 2.16 +2.33 +0.50 21%
Parks & Recreation 1.58 1.78 3.37 2.27 +1.79 +0.50 28%


Most of these are "surrounding episodes" comparisons, meaning I try to compare episodes that are really close together to avoid comparisons that have vastly different True Strengths. (Which is often the case with new shows, many of which are included here.) It would take too long to spell out which episodes in particular I'm looking at in each case, but feel free to ask if interested in an individual case.

These shows are reasonably consistent.* When comparing the "small lead-in" episodes with the "big lead-in" episodes, the shows' Competition-Adjusted True Strengths almost always increase in the general vicinity of 20% of the increase in lead-in. So we're gonna go with that: for every 1.0 increase in lead-in, we'll say a show's Competition-Adjusted True Strength is expected to go up by 0.2 (or 20% of the increase).

*- A particularly interesting exception is Better with You. The episode being examined here for "big lead-in" is the one that aired after Dancing with the Stars, which got a 2.6 A18-49 rating and was at the time generally considered to have exceeded expectations. That 2.6 rating was about a full point higher than its typical output at the time. But we see here that almost all of that increase has already been stripped out in the first two steps (viewing and competition). That episode happened to be in a situation where all of the "big three" factors were much, much more favorable. The overall viewing levels were much higher, the competition levels were much lower (no Idol as on Wednesday) and the lead-in was much larger than typical The Middle. When plugging in the 20% expected increase from the Dancing lead-in, the show actually drops to pretty easily its lowest True Strength of the season. If you want to bash on the whole True Strength project for "overthinking" everything, this may be the single best example, because the three huge adjustments actually suggest the show should have done significantly better than it did. (Incidentally, the expected A18-49 based on its surrounding episodes would be about a whooping 3.3.)

I don't think we have any two-hour shows that have huge changes in lead-ins, so our only other step in setting this first baseline is one-hour shows. We'll do those next post to avoid making this too long.

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