Friday, January 20, 2012

The Big Network Season-to-Date Report, WE 1/15/12

This year, I've started putting in markers with my program listings that indicate the type of show (regular original, regular repeat, special, movie or sports). I did this for a variety of reasons which are already in use around here, but it's dawned on me earlier this week that this allows me to pretty easily generate some other really interesting stats that we don't really see anywhere else.

So here's my first stab. This post will look at the A18-49 demo average of each network overall but also at the average of each network by show type. We all know NBC is only competitive in the network averages because of football, but how big a deal is it really? Who runs the most repeats, the most specials, etc.?

This won't be a weekly thing, but the week before American Idol's arrival seems a good time to start. It will be back at the end of the season if not before. As always with this kind of thing, I feel the need to note a few disclaimer-type things, but I'll save that for the bottom except for these important ones: all of this stuff is based on Live + Same Day where most of the Nielsen-supplied versions of this are Most Current (mostly Live + 7). And all of these go from premiere Monday (September 19) through the most recently ended week (January 15).

Network Averages by Genre

Network Overall Orig Rerun Spec Sports Movies
CBS 2.71 2.98 1.55 1.74 8.00 0.62
Fox 2.54 2.79 0.98 1.65 4.44 1.23
NBC 2.26 1.69 0.78 1.86 6.22 1.05
ABC 2.11 2.42 1.22 2.04 1.90 1.10
CW 0.60 0.79 0.33 0.50 n/a 0.30

NBC is in third place in Live + SD A18-49 ratings right now, ahead of ABC, in spite of all the NBC-bashing. So why all the NBC-bashing?

It's pretty obvious if you look at their "original entertainment" average. ABC, CBS and Fox all "behave" similarly with originals; the original average is in the neighborhood of 0.25 to 0.31 higher than their overall average. Their pecking order is about the same both in originals and in overall.

Then there's NBC. They have a 2.26 overall average, but their entertainment average is actually much worse than that. At a mere 1.69, it's a whooping 30% behind third-place ABC. The difference between ABC and NBC (0.73) is not that far off the difference between NBC and the CW (0.90). NBC is kept in the game because they get big ratings from sports, and they also have a lot of sports. (see below)

Network Programming (# of Half-Hours)

Network Orig Rerun Spec Sports Movies Total
CBS 483 197 36 27 5 748
Fox 291 129 10 76 4 510
NBC 406 143 32 123 29 733
ABC 463 98 86 68 33 748
CW 200 106 14 0 20 340

Network %Orig %Rerun %Sport
CBS 65% 26% 4%
Fox 57% 25% 15%
NBC 55% 20% 17%
ABC 62% 13% 9%
CW 59% 31% 0%

Just a few random observations:

17% of NBC's programming thus far has been sports thanks to a full Sunday of hugely-rated sports almost every week to date. Fox is actually not that far behind by percentage thanks to all their baseball in the fall (including a seven-game World Series) plus a bunch of NFL overruns.

The best way I think you can boil down the programming percentages is by adding %Orig and %Sports to get an approximate %Regularly Scheduled Originals. Interestingly, all of the big four are very similar here. Fox and NBC 72%, ABC 71%, CBS 69%. The key difference in programming philosophy across the networks is how they choose to fill that last 30% or so.

ABC runs easily the fewest repeats of any of the big five, and they fill much of that time with specials. They've run more than twice as many specials as anyone else, and they also have the highest specials average. That helps make up for their relatively shallow pool of good repeaters and their weaker sports presence (their 9% is almost entirely the Saturday Night Football games).

CBS is by far the best and most frequent repeater of the big four (and their rerun average is more impressive considering they usually have two hours of repeats on Saturday).

Overall, with the regular sports programming and the holiday special season both behind us, you can expect entertainment programming (Originals + Reruns) to have a bigger general presence moving forward. ABC and NBC are both currently at around 75% entertainment programming, but those numbers should go up a lot by season's end; I'd guess they'll both be over 80%.


Because of overruns, CBS' numbers in both averages and programming % are a little off. (And other networks that occasionally have overruns may also be very, very slightly off.) However, this doesn't seem to be particularly meaningful. There were only three half-hours being attributed to 60 Minutes that were way higher than what the whole show averaged. When I removed those entirely, it dropped CBS' original average from 2.98 to 2.95. So they shouldn't be off by any more than that (and probably less if I could put those opening overrun-inflated minutes of 60 Minutes back in.)

NBC has fifteen fewer total half-hours than the other big three nets because the first half-hour of Football Night in America isn't counted.

These numbers only count the network's "traditional primetime" timeslots. Nothing that overruns past primetime is counted, and that includes Fox's baseball games in the 10-11pm hours (since Fox usually doesn't nationally program 10-11).

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