Friday, March 2, 2012

Demos Year-to-Year, February Sweeps 2012 Grading the Networks

If you've followed my Demos Year-to-Year posts last month, you know I've started tracking each network as a whole along with the combined total of the networks each night. I tacked that on kinda late, so I didn't really have the framework to examine them on a larger scale... UNTIL NOW. First, here are the total Live+SD adults 18-49 counts for each network across the sweep:

Feb Sweep 2012 ABC CBS NBC Fox CW Total
A18-49 Average 2.25 2.76 (3.40) 2.69 0.59 11.68
Year-to-Year -3% +7% (+121%) (-53%) -28% -10%

Obviously, the Super Bowl and the fact that it switches networks is a big part of any February sweep network evaluation. Hell, it's so huge that it's a big part of any network evaluation for the full season. So I put the numbers for directly affected nets in parentheses. But there are two ways we can get around that...

The first, quickest way is to just remove the Super Bowl Sundays. Give 2011 Fox's Super Bowl Sunday the 2012 counterprogramming numbers. That changes Fox's 2011 average from 5.73 to 3.48, and makes them -23% year-to-year in 2012. Then give 2012 NBC's Super Bowl Sunday the 2011 counterprogramming numbers. That changes NBC's 2012 average from 3.40 to 1.86 and makes them +21% year-to-year in 2012. Yes, about 45% of NBC's 3.40 average for the sweep is tied up in Super Bowl Sunday, and just taking it out puts NBC in a distant fourth place rather than a comfortable first.

Of course, it's much more complicated than that. How much of a boost did the Super Bowl give to the Monday eps of The Voice, for example? But hopefully that's a somewhat "truer" picture of how those networks stacked up in the last month.

The second way to really analyze things is to break the network changes down by day:

Feb Sweep 2012 Year-to-Year ABC CBS NBC Fox CW Total
Monday -20% +8% +217% -6% -27% +23%
Tuesday +11% -7% -19% -16% -43% -12%
Wednesday +14% -4% -14% -26% -1% -13%
Thursday -13% +13% -28% -30% -21% -17%
Friday +25% +7% -18% -16% -41% -7%
Saturday -18% -0% -2% -34%  n/a -19%
Sunday -4% +23% (+875%) (-89%)  n/a -8%
Total -3% +7% (+121%) (-53%) -28% -10%

Here are some quick thoughts (and, to be provocative, a grade!) on each network:

ABC: All told, an impressive February sweep in my opinion. To go -3% without any huge external factors of note is pretty solid nowadays. This is mostly driven by Wednesday, which has been uplifting the net all season long, but they've also filled the between-DWTS void better (if still far from great) on Tuesday. Their only really weak night is Monday, where they've gotten understandably lost in the shuffle as other networks have soared. Grade: B.

CBS: Worth noting: give Grammy the year-ago numbers (in other words, take away the Whitney Houston bounce) and the network gain shrinks from +7% to +2%. But +2% is still stellar. Aside from Grammy, the biggest factor for CBS is the Thursday rejuvenation, which is largely about The Big Bang Theory but also owes a lot of credit to surging Person of Interest. Some of the early-season Monday hype is dissipating, but it's still on the upside as well. That's partly about CBS running out of Two and a Half Men originals for the final two weeks last year, but the Men repeats were still doing quite well in February 2011. That will be in play to a much larger extent in May. Most important of all: CBS just doesn't have any real problem nights. When your worst night of the whole week is -7%, your numbers are gonna rock. Grade: A-.

NBC: The Super Bowl and The Voice are such massive game-changers that they make the whole network look like it's having a major resurgence. And it's worth noting that it'd look pretty major even if you take the Super Bowl out and accept the +21%. But the reality is they're actually becoming more and more disastrous basically across the board from Tuesday thru Friday, including -28% on always-scrutinized Thursday night. It's just a really bizarre collection of numbers. +21% is a clear A-worthy number, and I give them a lot of credit for The Voice, but I just can't say NBC has "aced" a sweep that was A+++ on one night of the week and a D at best on most other nights. Grade: B.

Fox: The Super Bowl may inflate the drop, but they're still the sweep's clear loser. Yes, other networks had big help from factors beyond the realm of entertainment programming, but it's still pretty shocking that Fox could finish third place in a sweep with this much American Idol. Their only night that even looks remotely close to healthy (Monday) is basically propped up by the Daytona 500 rain delay. Give Fox a more reasonable 2.1 demo on that night and they're down 26% on Monday, too! Glee, House and, most importantly, American Idol are all down in the 30% range, if not more. Daytona was their only show to make it into my top five show/timeslot gainer lists in the four weeks combined. Grade: F.

CW: This network's even worse than Fox year-to-year if you accept Fox's without-Super Bowl -23%, but you have to take into account the fact that this network is basically ignoring the whole sweeps idea at this point. (Many claim nobody cares about sweeps, but there sure are a lot of originals in those periods on the other four nets.) Case in point: they pulled 90210 for three weeks. And Thursday and Friday were both all-repeat in the last week when they were all-original last year. This network's undoubtedly struggling, but the year-to-year numbers are a little less reliable here. Grade: D-.

Beyond the network analysis, we could also examine the nights of the week as a whole. Voice-fueled Monday is by far the hottest evening of the week; and, again, the Daytona 500 helps there too. But the second-healthiest evening is the once left for dead Friday. ABC has found themselves squarely on the upside thanks in large part to Shark Tank (plus a strong 20/20 Whitney Houston tribute). CBS has gotten great numbers with the first couple weeks of Undercover Boss. Basically, everyone on broadcast has something that's doing pretty decent. And elsewhere, Discovery's had a breakout on the night with Gold Rush. In March, USA Network is returning to the night with originals for the first time in over two years (though I think that's more about their crowded inventory than seeing a real opportunity). Just saying it's kinda interesting to see this evening actually holding up fairly well as other nights sag, when for awhile it was the opposite.

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