Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Climate, Weeks 14/15: The Idol Boost

Now that I'm out of midseason preview hell, I hope to be able to revive the "column" aspect of these posts somewhat regularly. Today brings a short-ish one about the effect American Idol has had on some of the climate numbers in past seasons.


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%
811/18/201233.5 -5% 8.4 -14% 2.13 -11%
911/25/201232.4 -4% 8.4 +6% 2.02 -17%
1012/02/201234.3 -1% 8.8 +4% 2.32 +10%
1112/09/201233.4 -4% 8.0 -5% 2.03 -13%
1212/16/201233.2 -1% 7.9 +5% 2.18 -13%
1312/23/201231.5 +2% 6.5 +7% 2.26 +16%
1412/30/201230.9 -4% 5.3 -6% 0.73 -42%
151/6/201334.2 -4% 7.1 -18% 1.90 -18%

Though I had a long spiel last time about how the comparisons are now more calendar-friendly, this week was an exception (sigh!) because New Year's Eve/Day are not things that line up by day of the week. So NYE was part of week 15 this year but not in week 16 last year, which hurt the bc and LeAv numbers. Still, -18% year-to-year is not a good sign for the first somewhat-close-to-full-strength week without The Voice. We'll see how it looks in week 16, which should be a somewhat apples-to-apples comparison.


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%
811/18/201233.7 -2% 8.9 -10% 2.28 -12%
911/25/201233.5 -3% 8.8 -9% 2.26 -12%
1012/02/201233.6 -2% 8.8 -8% 2.27 -10%
1112/09/201233.6 -3% 8.7 -8% 2.24 -11%
1212/16/201233.6 -2% 8.7 -7% 2.24 -11%
1312/23/201233.4 -2% 8.5 -6% 2.24 -10%
1412/30/201233.2 -2% 8.3 -6% 2.23 -10%
151/6/201333.3 -2% 8.2 -7% 2.21 -10%

Tomorrow brings the return of American Idol. You could make an argument that the Idol premiere has long been the most important ratings data point of the TV season (or at least the most important data point before we actually see what it is), and I'm pretty sure that, whatever happens, it will be the case for at least one more year. Not only are the ratings massive, but it also chews up at least 50 hours a year, which is a ton of the schedule; it's more than twice the size of a season of drama originals. So its ratings have a huge impact on both Fox's average and on the average for broadcast as a whole.

The Fox Effect

2006-07, the first season in which I have A18-49+ numbers, is the best example we have of the notion that Fox would sit out the fall and come exploding back with Idol in the spring. Their fall of 2006 was absolutely dreadful. They had one big hit in House and a few other passable players that nonetheless struggled to hit the league average (Prison Break, Bones, animation domination). Thursday, Friday and the new shows (Vanished, Justice, Standoff) all had a really rough go of it.

It added up to a mere 72 season-to-date A18-49+ for Fox entertainment at the end of 2006, the second-lowest such fall number by a big-four network in the seven years that I have these numbers. (Only NBC's fall 2011 (68) was worse.)

They bounced up to 75 in the last pre-Idol week with House and the 24 premiere. Then, back came Idol. It took them just seven weeks to go from a distant fourth place to a resounding first: 75 -> 85 -> 92 -> 96 -> 99 -> 101 -> 106 -> 110. By season's end, Fox had a 124 and had left the field in the dust. (ABC was second at 106.) Fox went from a 75 to a 124 in the Idol period, a relative boost of nearly two-thirds!

In subsequent years, that growth has become less pronounced. But until last year, it was still huge. And until last year, that smaller growth was more about Fox getting their act together in the fall than about a relative weakening of Idol.

Fox Pre-Idol Final
2006-07 75 124
2007-08 88 130
2008-09 90 121
2009-10 97 123
2010-11 96 128

In 2011-12, Fox had its strongest fall by a long shot thanks to a "mini-Idol" in the fall. Then came the weakest Idol season in the relative landscape since probably the first couple seasons. So while the Idol boost was there, it was now pretty small:

Fox Pre-Idol Final
2011-12 114 119
2012-13 90 ???

In the end, a historically strong fall plus a historically weak Idol added up to a slightly weaker Fox overall than in any of the previous five years. (Although it's of course more complicated than that.) So what happens this year, when they had The X Factor and still only managed about their typical late-aughts level? One might think Idol could bring them up more since they're starting lower... but they'll need Idol to hold up somewhat well.

The League Average Effect

One other point about Idol in years past is that it often serves to prop up not just Fox but the broadcast numbers as a whole. This table compares the original entertainment average after the last pre-Idol week to the league average at the end of the season.

League Ent. Average Pre-Idol -> Final
2006-07 +1.9%
2007-08 +0.3%
2008-09 +4.7%
2009-10 +4.3%
2010-11 +0.8%
2011-12 -3.8%
2012-13 ???

Again, this is more complicated than just one show (for example, the writers' strike played a huge role in 2007-08), but the point is that, in a vacuum, we would ordinarily not expect the league average to increase from mid-January thru mid-May. Most shows' ratings drop noticeably over this time compared to the fall. Idol was the biggest reason it happened this way for (at least) half a decade, and a significantly weaker Idol coupled with some fall inflations finally meant that the reverse happened in 2011-12. Though the fall was probably not as inflated this season, I can't rule out a drop this big again, since The Voice is starting later and Idol may well take another huge step down. Let's hope not.

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.

Note: Beginning with week 9, all numbers compare against the next numbered week in the 2011-12 season. So week 9 compares against week 10 of 2011-12, etc. This was done to make the comparisons more calendar-friendly. See here for more on that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© SpottedRatings.com 2009-2022. All Rights Reserved.