Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ad Rates: Is There a Thursday Premium? Does Total Viewership Matter on CBS?

I'm going to add a couple more notes onto my big ad rates post from Monday, examining a couple notions that get thrown around with respect to advertising. Another tip of the cap to the original Ad Age article, and thanks to reader Mike Stein for these two questions:

Do Advertisers Really Place a Premium on Thursday Night?

Mike is addressing the oft-cited conventional wisdom that Thursday is a "bigger" night for advertising because it's the last high-rated night prior to movie openings, weekend shopping, etc.

What do the numbers say? Keeping in mind that there's a pretty small sample size on any individual night, the numbers suggest there's very little if any Thursday premium. The "league average" for dollars per 18-49 demo point was about $53,500, and the average of eleven shows on Thursday was about $54,900. That's only 2% above the league average. And it's almost certainly at or even below the average of all the weeknights, since the rates are typically so low on Friday/Saturday. Six of the eleven shows were above the league average, while five were below.

One other way to examine this is to compare the multi-night shows. If there were a Thursday premium, then stuff like American Idol and The X Factor that theoretically have pretty much the same audience composition on both nights would probably make more money per demo point on Thursday than on Wednesday, right? That one doesn't really suggest a Thursday premium either. Idol makes almost $64,000 per point on Wednesday but under $61,000 on Thursday. X makes over $64,000 per point on Wednesday but only a little over $56,000 on Thursday!

Maybe it's a different story among ad buying that's closer to the airdate, but based on the upfront estimates... there's little to no evidence that Thursday is the big deal that a lot of people think it is.

Do All Those 50+ Viewers Affect CBS Ad Rates?

It's commonly believed that CBS "cares" about the 50+ set because they put programs on the air that attract a whole lot of them. This one I've actually examined in the past, but it's been a few years. The conclusions with the 2012 data are pretty much the same:

1. The ad rates for just CBS correlate a bit better with A18-49 ratings than for the big five networks as a whole. r = 0.94 for CBS, r = 0.93 for the big five.

2. The ad rates for just CBS correlate much, much better with A18-49 ratings than with total viewers. r = 0.94 for A18-49, r = 0.52 for total viewership.

3. Those extra viewers don't make CBS more valuable per demo point. In fact, it's the opposite. Their average $ per demo point is just over $48,000, which is a fairly significant 10% below the "league average" of $53,000ish.

#3 is an important one. People get really mad about the "total viewers are meaningless" notion that gets thrown around, but sadly, it's actually being sort of kind. Given two shows with the same A18-49 rating, it's likely that the show with better ad rates will be the one with fewer viewers, and that's evident by looking at high-viewed CBS compared to the league average.

Does that mean that the over-50 set is just so undesirable that they actually bring down the numbers? No. What it means is that total viewership typically does a pretty good job of describing how that 18-49 demo is composed. If there are tons of out-of-demo viewers, it means the in-demo viewers are likely to fall toward the top of the 18-49 range (35-49). If there are very few out-of-demo viewers, it means the in-demo viewers are likely to fall toward the bottom of the range (18-34). And the advertisers sure seem to like 18-34 better than 35-49.

So does CBS "care" about the over-50 set? Depends on your definition. They certainly don't sell ads based on them, as #2 indicates. But they do seek out shows that are likely to be older-skewing than the broadcast norm. In my opinion, it's not out of the goodness of their hearts; it's a calculated decision to sacrifice some advertiser-friendliness (18-34) in exchange for a far less fickle audience (35-49). In recent years, that's how it's played out; they've typically been light on megahits but very heavy on solid, reliable programs. They are different roads up the same mountain, but people tend to have a lot more respect for the CBS approach because it makes for a lot fewer scheduling holes.

As for why CBS boasts total viewership in press releases? Because they have total viewership! PR 101*: play up the value of what you have, downplay what you lack.

*- Disclaimer: I never actually took PR 101, but that's what I would expect!


Spot said...

I love reading these kind of posts from you so much!

Spot said...

Given that CBS is a syndication machine, perhaps the Eye and its sister studio are also more willing to hang onto an older-skewing show because local stations look at household viewership when looking for a show to buy and strip across its weekday dayparts. I'm not saying it means the 18-49 demo is irrelevant to individual stations when it comes to picking up the off-run of a show, but casting a wide net of an audience means more local advertisers could be sold on buying ad time for an older show.

This argument could also explain why a "youthful" bubble show may have a better chance at a pickup on CBS than most other networks. How I Met Your Mother and The Amazing Race were constantly on the bubble early in their runs, but I would imagine that they helped age down the network . Even though total viewership lacked, those young-skewing shows helped to balance out a show like Numb3rs or 60 Minutes.

Spot said...

It's a game CBS can't play forever. Their A25-54's are so much higher than their A18-49's suggests that the type of people that watch their shows are stacked towards the upper age limit and introducing new shows that appeal to that viewership profile will get diminishing A18-49s and ad revenue in each later year even though total viewership could be relatively stable. The only way the gig isn't over is if they find a new formula to lure in A25-40's. So far, no good...

Spot said...

oh, well, as it is fading by now, CBS should take some really tiny steps and try to debut a young skewing and fresh drama next year, put a lot of money to promote it and make people aware of it. I'm sure they can attract some other-than-usual audience if they try hard. I mean, I guess even old people get tired of procedurals some times (despite premiering huge, NCIS is way down i total viewers form past seasons) and would like to see something new.
I would love to see a supernatural procedural on CBS - but not as soft as PoI, and not as fantasy as Grimm. something new. something smart. something revelant.

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