Monday, July 29, 2013

A18-49+: The Reruns, Sports, Movies and Specials Post

The A18-49+ theme posts combine all of the individual season info in one specific category, allowing us to line up the last ten seasons of collective Live+SD ratings declines on a relatively apples-to-apples basis. In future seasons I will update these pages with the new season numbers.

The other theme posts pretty much just use various different ways to break apart the realm of original non-sports series: by network, by genre, by day of the week, etc. But this post will leave the original series altogether and examine some of the trends among the other 35-40% of programming that fills out primetime schedules. I break them into four categories: series repeats, sports, specials and movies.

*- I mentioned many times when introducing the 2001-02 numbers that those two seasons had a small amount of missing data. While these probably slightly throw off some of the big-picture numbers in the original realm, for the most part they should be fairly accurate because most of the missing stuff falls in parts of the year with very few series originals. That's probably not the case in this post, since those missing weeks are almost entirely the non-originals explored here. So I will put an asterisk next to all the big-picture numbers in those seasons.

Anatomy of the Big Four Ratings


Unlike with most of the theme posts, I'm not breaking this down into "eras" because the narrative is pretty much the same from start to finish.

The 2003-04 number is unreliable, as explained above, but it's probably safe to say that ten years ago the average repeat did over two thirds of the number of the average original; and by 2012-13, it's gotten to less than half. Ten years ago, movie encores were still viable to plug relatively high-priority timeslots for most to all of a season, and now they're just not. They've dropped by nearly the same amount as the series reruns.

People usually look at big declines by originals when coming up with their "death of broadcast" narratives, but it's very possible the repeat/movie declines are the larger immediate issue. That programming is pretty much pure profit, and the size of that profit is shrinking quickly. Networks are increasingly hesitant to use repeats/movies as "filler," because it's much tougher for a new show to be weaker than the average repeat replacement, and so they have to be more and more "patient" with clear failure programs and spend more money on filler originals.

Despite the large repeat/movie declines, the overall big four ratings are declining by less than the original rate, because of the huge relative rise of sports. (But because of the also surging rights fees, it seems unlikely the profit is going up as fast as the ratings indicate, or as fast as it's going down with repeats.) 2013-14 with the Winter Olympics was a milestone season: the average for "everything else" actually went higher than the original series average.

Anatomy of the Big Four Real Estate

This is just a look at how much of each of these things the networks program. As I've noted in the past, it surprises me how steady these numbers have been over the years. Essentially the only thing that happened was the fall of movies. As of 2003-04, CBS had regular Sunday movie nights, and ABC almost always ran movies on Mondays after Monday Night Football ended. And that 9% of real estate lost has almost equally gone into originals, series repeats and sports. Even though repeat ratings have fallen by about as much as movie ratings, the drop in repeat real estate has been much slower; they've had to stay in place to help cover for the death of movies. But looking at repeats and movies as a "super-cheap filler" package, that total continues to decline.

Individual Examples

Here are a few more specific examples to help convey the varying rates of decline among these categories:


First, here are the two regular in-season sports franchises, ABC's college football and ABC/NBC's NFL:

Year Sunday / Monday Night NFL Saturday Night College
2003-04 162
2004-05 155
2005-06 155
2006-07 170 74
2007-08 184 70
2008-09 204 92
2009-10 271 77
2010-11 326 80
2011-12 354 95
2012-13 387 102
2013-14 419 96

And here are the championship games/series. While these are much more variable from year-to-year due to matchups and series lengths, there's still a pretty clear trend:

Year Super Bowl NBA Finals World Series BCS Championship NCAA Championship
2003-04 879 195 165 214 155
2004-05 817 127 216 182 214
2005-06 849 132 139 314 152
2006-07 941 100 130 283 192
2007-08 1142 186 171 250 222
2008-09 1230 196 153 318 211
2009-10 1382 262 205 376 294
2010-11 1573 282 158 398 280
2011-12 1714 298 204 368 322
2012-13 1884 329 170 437 399
2013-14 2086 319 226 462 382

Most of these trends are pretty sharply up. All of the above seven other than the World Series are in the general vicinity of twice as strong (relative to original series) as ten years ago. Being twice as strong means that the raw numbers are pretty close to the same as at the beginning of the era. So it should be pretty clear that sports are operating on a different playing field from regular series.

Much of the reason why the entire sports rating (169 in 2003-04 -> 251 today) hasn't grown on that same scale is baseball. (In-season baseball includes not just the World Series but also previous postseason rounds which are much lower-rated.) Baseball gets consistently savaged in the sports media for its declines and its aging audience. And yet even baseball, trending by far the worst of the major sports, is still pretty much declining at the same rate as (maybe even a bit slower than) the collective entertainment series.

Sports-esque Specials (Awards Shows):

Year Oscars Grammys CMA Awards Golden Globes People's Choice
2003-04 377 286 153 244 101
2004-05 371 199
140 81
2005-06 341 174 133 155 83
2006-07 377 222 144 174 94
2007-08 326 198 165 n/a n/a
2008-09 406 248 168 164 101
2009-10 476 355 190 197 122
2010-11 467 396 186 205 107
2011-12 495 597 203 212 106
2012-13 617 479 180 304 128
2013-14 695 526 250 345 127

As I acknowledged in last year's sports/specials post, my "special" designation is probably too broad. There are really two different brands of special: the live, sports-esque special (most of these are awards shows) and the rerun, series-esque special (most of these are holiday specials). Maybe by next year I will have actually separated the two in terms of designation! But for now, I can only re-provide these examples. The awards shows have almost all gotten stronger relative to original series because they have some of that "DVR-proof" quality that has benefited sports. However, the rates of growth are generally slower here than in sports.

Series-esque Specials (Holiday Specials):

Year It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving A Charlie Brown Christmas Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Grinch
2003-04 123 71 108 123

118 128 49
2005-06 98 71 135 142 54
2006-07 69 83 128 120 104
2007-08 116 100 140 155 207
2008-09 114 114 114 141 127
2009-10 91 72 132 136 100
2010-11 77 87 103 154 87
2011-12 97 76 119 169 106
2012-13 128 104 138 138 114
2013-14 117 85 101 159 80

This selection of holiday specials is a little harder to decipher than most of the other examples, perhaps because of scheduling differences. (A few quick examples: the Grinch aired on Friday in 2004 and 2005; in 2007 the Grinch had a huge lead-in from the premiere of Shrek the Halls; and ABC sometimes aired the Peanuts Thanksgiving special on low-HUT Thanksgiving Night, sometimes the week before.) But overall, the general trends are about even with the original series trends, or maybe even a little better, even though these specials have been around for years or decades.

For additional yearly/theme recaps and more on A18-49+, check out the A18-49+ Index.


Spot said...

The sports ratings are really interesting to me. Obviously, football has seen the most growth, but I wonder if college sports (in general) are catching up to pro sports. I know that I much prefer college basketball to the NBA and that I like college football just as much as, if not slightly more than, the NFL. I think that college baseball is also showing growth while the MLB is showing decline.

I know that a lot has to do with the matchups, but both the BCS and NCAA title games posted new highs this year. Yes, the BCS game was Alabama-Notre Dame, but the game was a blowout, so it could have been even higher otherwise. NCAA had Louisville-Michigan, which was a good game, but imagine what Duke-Kentucky (my preseason prediction) could do next year!

You may say that these are just rising along with the pro companions. However, the NBA Finals could only barely get to a 10-year high despite having one of the best finals ever (a 7-game Heat-Spurs series). Game 6 may have been the best NBA game ever, and Game 7 was still down in raw numbers from Game 7 in 2010 (Lakers-Celtics). That 2010 game was not even close! Yes, the Super Bowl grew to a whopping 1884, but its growth is slowing. This year actually marked the first time in years with a raw drop in viewership. Also, the Super Bowl has benefited from a close game for 10 seasons in a row (last non-close one was Buccaneers-Raiders in 2002-03).

In short, it looks like the NBA and NFL are still going strong due to a variety of factors including close games, football craziness, and the Kobe/LeBron era. However, I think that their college companions look even healthier right now.

Spot said...

I will add ratings predictions for this year (keep in mind that I expect it to be a solid season for the league average):

SNF: 390
SaNF: 114
Super Bowl: 1855 (Packers-Patriots)
NBA Finals: 268 (Heat-Thunder- 5 Games)
World Series: 153 (Cardinals-Tigers- 5 Games)
BCS Finals: 507 (Alabama-Ohio St.)
NCAA Finals: 461 (Duke-Kentucky)

Spot said...

The power of sports (specifically football) is, I think, best demonstrated by ABC's Saturday Night Football. On the weakest of nights, it's grown to become a league-average show.

What about one of the newest, non-animated holiday specials: The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show? After all, CBS loves pairing it with Rudolph (though NCIS is sandwiched in the middle)... :-P

Spot said...

I'd consider that closer to the event feel of an awards show than to a holiday special. It did roughly a 75-80 in the first half of the 18-49+ era, gradually grew north of 100, and exploded in the last two years (195 and 171).

Spot said...

SatNF is kind of unpredictable, though. From 3.0 to mid 1s, then a couple of high 2s-low 3s, then a 5, and finally a 1. It's so match-up-depedent that I can't see it replicating that performance.

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