Monday, August 6, 2012

The Olympic Competition Effect

There's been a lot of debate about NBC's Olympics coverage over the last week plus. The question that really seems to underlie it all, at least from my perspective, is, "Are the Olympics 'sports' or are they 'entertainment'?" They're different things for different people, but NBC's approach in primetime is clearly the "entertainment" one to a large extent.

I thought an interesting way to try to examine the nature of the primetime Olympic audience would be to look at the shows most affected by the Games' arrival. So here are the week-to-week changes against the Olympics for a large selection of broadcast and cable originals. These only include shows that aired both the week before the Olympics (July 20-26) and the first week of the Olympics (July 27-August 2).

Resilient (better than -11%) Normal (-11% to -21%) Slammed (worse than -21%)
Teen Mom MTV +13% Perception TNT -11% Snooki & Jwoww MTV -22%
Dallas TNT +8% Alphas Syfy -12% Sullivan & Son TBS -22%
The Closer TNT +5% The Exes TVLand -12% Royal Pains USA -23%
True Blood HBO +4% Melissa & Joey ABCFam -12% Jane By Design ABCFam -23%
Suits USA +2% Pretty Little Liars ABCFam -12% For Better or Worse TBS -24%
Common Law USA +2% The Soul Man TVLand -12% Warehouse 13 Syfy -26%
Lost Girl Syfy +1% Franklin & Bash TNT -14% Beverly Hills Nannies ABCFam -27%
Real Housewives NYC Bravo +1% Awkward MTV -14% Tosh.0 Comedy -27%
Big Brother Wed CBS +0% The Newsroom HBO -17% Covert Affairs USA -27%
Friday Smackdown! Syfy -3% Real Housewives NJ Bravo -17% Final Witness ABC -30%
White Collar USA -4% Futurama Comedy -21% Rizzoli & Isles TNT -30%
Breaking Bad AMC -5%

Louie FX -30%
Big Brother Sun CBS -5%

Bunheads ABCFam -33%
Burn Notice USA -5%

WWE Raw USA -34%
Necessary Roughness USA -7%

Anger Management FX -34%
Political Animals USA -7%

Secret Life ABCFam -35%
Workaholics Comedy -9%

Baby Daddy ABCFam -35%
Big Brother Thu CBS -9%

Wipeout ABC -36%
Weeds Showtime -9%

Wilfred FX -41%
Project Runway Lifetime -9%

Episodes Showtime -42%

NY Med ABC -45%

The average week-to-week decline when adding up the ratings of all these shows was 16%, so my stab at a "normal" category just went ± five percentage points from there.

In looking at this table, I'm honestly pretty stumped. The shows that get "slammed" by the Olympics are a fairly diverse bunch. There are certainly some shows that we'd traditionally think of as male-skewing, like Tosh.0 and FX's comedy lineup. But then you have female-leaners like Snooki & JWoww and five of the seven ABC Family shows in that column too. Most of the USA and TNT dramas were relatively resilient to the Olympics, but then you have Rizzoli & Isles, Covert Affairs and Royal Pains that took huge hits. I briefly thought it seemed like the shows with what I'd consider more of a casual/disposable feel got hit pretty hard, but that wouldn't seem to mesh with a low-rated show like Louie that has a ton of enthusiastic Internet support.

So I can't come up with much of a narrative, but I thought I'd go ahead and post this just in case someone else can. I should note that week-to-week fluctuations on cable are usually pretty volatile anyway since the numbers are so small. The fact that the average movement among these shows is -16% indicates there's definitely a significant Olympic effect, but some shows may have just had a bad week or a really good week anyway.

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