Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ad Rates 2011: What'd Advertisers Think of New Shows?

To do this portion of my yearly epic look at ad rates, I take the average cost of a 30 second spot per point of A18-49 rating from comparing ratings and ad rates for 58 shows that stayed in the same timeslot (or close to the same timeslot) in 2011-12. Then I apply that average cost to the new shows' ad rates to get a speculated demo rating. Not an exact science, and perhaps these should all be a little lower since the advertisers are likely projecting some losses in the returnee ad rates, but they'll work for comparative purposes.

These rates will change based on actual ratings, and significant underachievers often cause their networks to pay "make-goods," so these shouldn't be taken as measures of success or failure. They're just measures of what was expected to succeed or fail, which I think is a cool thing to be able to see.

Spec A18-49 diff
X Factor Wed 6.7 4.0 -40%
X Factor Thu 5.9 4.0 -32%
Person of Interest 3.6 2.8 -23%
Terra Nova 3.5 2.9 -16%
2 Broke Girls 3.5 5.0 +44%
Once Upon a Time 2.8 3.9 +40%
Pan Am 2.7 2.2 -18%
Unforgettable 2.7 2.5 -7%
How to Be a Gentleman 2.7 2.0 -26%
New Girl 2.6 4.5 +74%
Suburgatory 2.6 3.2 +21%
Man Up! 2.5 2.4 -6%
Whitney 2.5 2.5 +1%
Revenge 2.5 2.7 +10%
Last Man Standing 2.4 3.4 +41%
Prime Suspect 1.9 1.5 -21%
Up All Night 1.7 2.5 +43%
Free Agents 1.6 1.4 -17%
The Playboy Club 1.5 1.4 -12%
Charlie's Angels 1.4 1.5 +1%
A Gifted Man 1.3 1.2 -7%
Ringer 1.0 0.9 -14%
Hart of Dixie 1.0 0.7 -29%
The Secret Circle 1.0 1.0 -1%
H8R 0.7 0.5 -31%

The actual ratings (the A18-49 column) are through October 23, so this isn't exactly a full season here, and most ratings only decline going forward. That means if you're already significantly below expectations, that's not a good thing.

It's too early to say definitively on Once Upon a Time, though I will note that the advertisers were relatively optimistic about the show; only Person of Interest and Terra Nova (both likely disappointments) got more ad bucks among dramas.

Other than Once Upon a Time (just one data point included), what's the common thread among the shows the advertisers significantly underestimated? Yes, you've probably heard this before: comedy. Most of these shows are doing way better than expected, like 2 Broke Girls (+44%), Up All Night (+43%), Last Man Standing (+41%), and Suburgatory (+21%). Now, some of those are still inflated by premiere ratings, but most have settled at levels above their projections. By far the biggest of the overachievers is New Girl, which comparatively the advertisers saw as a relatively middle of the road show that would basically be another Raising Hope-level program. It's clearly exceeded that (or at least it did back when Fox was airing it). And a couple of those programs wound up significantly better than their new lead-outs (Man Up! and Free Agents) even though the advertisers didn't think those shows would have any meaningful ratings difference.

Revenge is the only drama with any kind of sample size that's still significantly ahead of where advertisers expected. But hey, give them credit for not buying into the Charlie's Angels hype one single bit. They were pretty much right on in pegging Angels and The Playboy Club as big flops.

The underachievers vastly outnumber the overachievers (which, again, maybe means those spec numbers should be adjusted down a bit). However, there certainly aren't the massive underachievers that we had last year, when the big three megaflops Lone Star, The Whole Truth and My Generation all struggled to even get half of what I projected the advertisers expected. (In Lone Star's case, more like a third!) TV's most public disappointment this fall has been The X Factor, and it's indeed also been the biggest ad rates disappointment. These numbers are expecting the show to be about two-thirds as strong as American Idol, but the reality is X has only been about a half-Idol, and quite possibly even less by season's end.

Several new dramas have been reported as disappointments in the media and have also disappointed based on these numbers; the best examples are Person of Interest (the most expensive drama is already 23% below its speculated demo), Prime Suspect (-21%), Pan Am (-18%) and Terra Nova (-16%).

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