Monday, November 19, 2012

The Climate: How Much is The Voice Boosting NBC?


We'll start with the weekly update on the climate numbers intro'ed last week:

Week-by-week:

Week Ending TPUT y2y bc y2y LeAv y2y
19/30/201232.4 -6% 9.2 -16% 2.50 -15%
210/07/201232.8 -5% 8.7 -15% 2.26 -17%
310/14/201233.7 -1% 8.6 -10% 2.33 -9%
410/21/201233.4 -3% 8.6 -6% 2.30 -6%
510/28/201234.2 -0% 9.1 -3% 2.12 -16%
611/04/201234.5 -0% 9.2 -9% 2.32 -11%
711/11/201235.1 +1% 9.3 -9% 2.30 -7%

In week seven, overall viewing ticked up yet again and was on the year-to-year upside for the first time all season, and broadcast viewing was at its highest level of the season, even beyond premiere week. Much of the credit on both fronts goes to the very high-viewed Tuesday election night.

Season-to-date:

Week Ending TPUTy2d y2dy2y bcy2d y2dy2y LAy2d y2dy2y
19/30/201232.4 -6% 9.2 -16% 2.50 -15%
210/07/201232.6 -5% 8.9 -15% 2.39 -16%
310/14/201233.0 -4% 8.8 -14% 2.37 -14%
410/21/201233.1 -4% 8.8 -12% 2.35 -12%
510/28/201233.3 -3% 8.8 -10% 2.31 -13%
611/04/201233.5 -3% 8.9 -10% 2.31 -12%
711/11/201233.7 -2% 8.9 -10% 2.31 -12%

No real changes on the year-to-date fronts except for the continued evening out in overall viewing. The league average remains at 2.31 and down 12% year-to-year, though it improved by nearly a full percentage point this week if I included an extra decimal point (-12.5% to -11.7%).

Today, a few words about the network landscape and the NBC comeback. Here's the table from the spring A18-49+ post comparing the networks' original entertainment averages over the last six years:

Year ABC CBS NBC Fox CW
2006-07 106 100 81 124 41
2007-08 98 93 88 130 36
2008-09 100 103 82 121 39
2009-10 99 106 78 123 39
2010-11 98 106 77 128 37
2011-12 96 115 77 119 29

And here's how 2012-13 would look if the season ended after week seven:

Year ABC CBS NBC Fox CW
2012-13 94 105 105 93 29

Whoa! I said in the spring that 2011-12 had the most seismic shifts of any of the last six years aside from maybe the '07-'08 and '08-'09 writer's strike effects. But if this held up, the rise of NBC would be a much more significant event than any of that.

The problem is it's not going to hold up, at least not fully, because there's pretty much one singular reason for the shift, and it's leaving the airwaves for about three and a half months.

How Big is the Voice Boost?

From an entertainment series standpoint, NBC is very nearly a one-show network. But when that one show takes up such a large part of the schedule and is this big in the relative landscape, it can really add up.

From the start of the regular season through last Thursday, 26% of NBC's entertainment original schedule was The Voice. But then you have to factor in the high-ratedness of those hours. Do that and a whooping 47% of NBC's entertainment original "man-hours" were tied up in The Voice. In other words, nearly as many adults 18-49 have watched the 25 hours of The Voice combined as have watched NBC's other 70 hours of entertainment originals combined.

With The Voice, NBC is in a virtual dead heat with CBS for the entertainment original lead. (They're actually a teeny bit ahead.) Without it, they're right back where they always are: a distant fourth.* Those other 70 hours are averaging just a 1.75 demo, which is a very NBC-esque 76 A18-49+. The league average would be lower without The Voice, but so would the ratings for Go On and Revolution. And they'd have to fill those extra three hours a week with something else probably below the current without-Voice average. All told, they'd be (at best) pretty much where they always are.

*- That's just in original entertainment programming, though. Take away The Voice and the average of what's left on NBC would still (barely) lead the way in overall 18-49. In the overall picture, they are very nearly a two-show network.

Even disregarding whatever the lead-in boosts are to Go On and Revolution, The Voice is boosting the NBC entertainment average by a whooping 40%. The next biggest average-booster is The X Factor, which lifts Fox's entertainment average by 15%. Nothing else on the big four currently boosts its network's entertainment average by more than four percent. The 40% Voice boost is about as much as American Idol boosted Fox in the first year of the A18-49+ era, 2006-07, when Idol was near its peak and Fox was nearly a total disaster area in the fall. Idol was boosting an entire season, half of which it wasn't even airing in, but Fox also programs fewer hours, so it's kind of a more complicated comparison than I'm making it. But Idol was also a much, much bigger show in 2007 (even relatively speaking) than The Voice is now. It was boosting a much more competitive network sans-Idol than NBC is sans-Voice.

Where Will NBC End Up?

I say all of this not to try to discredit NBC. It is sure a hell of a lot better to be a one-show network than a zero-show network, and NBC was just about facing that prospect when they debuted The Voice in spring 2011. They deserve the ratings credit that they get for making this work.

I say it because it inevitably invites the question, "What will the network be without the show?" We can ask that about a show's general erosion (see: Idol, Dancing with the Stars) or just about a hiatus like the one NBC will soon confront. The 3.5-month Voice hiatus will definitely shift the network landscape drastically.

My extremely unscientific take: let's say NBC remains at its current 105 level for this period, reverts to the without-Voice 76 for the winter, and then returns to 105 when The Voice returns at the end of March. And let's say the first period contains 40% of the originals on each network, the hiatus 40% and the third period 20%. (105 + 105 + 76 + 76 + 105) / 5 = 93.4.

And 93.4 is probably being kind. Can their entertainment originals average a 76 A18-49+ while The Voice and Revolution are gone? Seems unlikely. (They had a 68 in fall 2011, their last significant period without The Voice.) It's not inconceivable the network could have zero shows capable of a two-point-oh in the demo in the cold winter. Can they get right back to 105 in the spring with second-string coaches on The Voice, Revolution coming off a massive hiatus that it's limping into, and perhaps NBC having granted competitors on Monday and Tuesday the opportunity to pick up some steam?

The point is: don't buy too much into the NBC comeback just yet. CBS has football boosts and Fox has Idol, so they really have nowhere to go but up, relatively speaking. NBC should have a shot at its best relative score in the A18-49+ era, which would be a great step. But by season's end, NBC may well be lucky to find itself in a third-place race with ABC among entertainment programs. Can't wait to see how the networks line up by the end of the Voice hiatus.



Click to expand for more on the "climate" numbers used herein.

TPUT - This is an ESTIMATED average of how many people are watching TV from 8:00 to 11:00.
  • I derive these numbers by adding up all the ratings and dividing by all the shares in each of the 42 half-hours each week. That means there is some error relative to the numbers Nielsen actually releases. Sadly we don't regularly have access to those. I always advise not to rely heavily on these numbers for any one show in any one week, but the hope is that the error is minimized across a 42-timeslot sample every week.
  • I include the Old Methodology adjustment, which makes the number more like a measurement of how many people watch primetime programming Live + SD, rather than a measurement of how many people watch any TV (including old DVR stuff) from 8:00 to 11:00. This makes the number perhaps less intuitive in a vacuum, but it's pretty much a wash when making week-to-week and year-to-year comparisons, which is what we're really interested in.
bc - This is an average of how many people are watching national broadcast TV from 8:00 to 11:00.
  • This does NOT include the 10:00 adjustment used in the True2 calculation which attempts to account for Fox/CW programming and stronger cable. Again, that perhaps hurts the number in a vacuum, because the 10:00 numbers being used only include three networks, so I'm averaging timeslots that are somewhat apples-to-oranges. But again, it's a wash when making comparisons because I treat it that way all the time. It would not really change week-to-week or year-to-year comparisons, and that's what I mostly care about.
  • Another important note here is that these numbers include the preliminary averages for "sustaining" programming like presidential debates and commercial-free benefit concerts whose numbers are typically omitted from traditional Nielsen averages. I might eventually omit these from this particular calculation, but they're needed on my spreadsheets to 1) make PUT calculations in those timeslots and 2) create a competition number for the entertainment shows that air against them.
LeAv - This is a measurement of how many people watch the average moment of original entertainment series programming on the big four networks. Meaning, no sports, no reruns, no specials, no movies, no sustaining programming included.

1 comment:

Spot said...

One other thing to keep in mind is that NBC is going to gain more entertainment original hours in January when Sunday Night Football closes up shop. I don't expect Celebrity Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, and whatever else they schedule to fill Sundays through Tuesdays pulling Revolution or even Go On numbers. On the whole, NBC's demo numbers are going to tumble hard and fast once
The Voice & football are done propping up the schedule (and its
biggest benefactor, Revolution, is on hiatus).

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