Friday, October 18, 2013

Ad Rates: The 2013 Takeaways

Earlier this week, one of the most important articles of the year in TV media hit the presses: the full series list of upfront ad rates, this time posted by Anthony Crupi at AdWeek. As is worth noting every year, they're just estimates, but they're the closest thing we usually get to hard data about what shows are actually bringing in the bucks, and how it differs from the ratings picture that we use to try to approximate that.

Every year I put all of the shows that returned to "approximately" the same timeslot into a spreadsheet and try to look at some of what you can't really pick up on from just a cursory glance at the huge table. These posts seem to get shorter every year because those takeaways are so often the same. But that's probably a good thing! But here are a few quick thoughts on this year's numbers:

1. Fox Tuesday is officially the new Fox Sunday. Perhaps the biggest insight in these posts over the years, at least on an individual show basis, has been the consistent and drastic "overvaluing" of Fox's super-young skewing Sunday animated comedies. In other words, they get more dollars per L+SD 18-49 point than pretty much everything on TV. Since it happens every year, it's clearly not a "mistake" on the advertisers' part, but rather a lesson about how highly they value shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. That lesson isn't all that valuable, though, since it's not like there are all that many people out there calling for the Sunday comedies' cancellation even based on the 18-49 numbers.

Last year, the cartoons had some company at the top in the form of the upcoming sophomore comedy New Girl, which nearly matched The Simpsons in overvalued-ness. But it wasn't entirely clear at the time how much of that was New Girl's advertiser-friendly audience and how much was ratings speculation. After all, the advertisers had seemingly granted a "sophomore bounce" in pricing to several other shows in the 2011-12 newbie class.

Now, it's pretty clear. It's hard to believe the advertisers could've seen potential for a huge uptick going into season three of New Girl, but it remains in the #2 $/A18-49 spot behind The Simpsons. And its similarly young-skewing lead-out The Mindy Project was right up there as well. Here's the top five:

A18-49 Price ($) $/A18-49 diff*
The Simpsons 2.49 256963 103160 +87%
New Girl 2.30 231570 100858 +82%
The Mindy Project 1.56 150950 96608 +75%
Family Guy 2.70 223145 82646 +49%
Scandal 2.50 200970 80388 +45%

*- The "diff" compares $A18-49 to the average price per 18-49 point among the 51 shows tracked.

Bottom line: this is probably not some huge miscalculation on the advertisers' part. We have to look at New Girl and Mindy as much more valuable shows than their ratings indicate. While Fox shows are highly-valued in general, these are on another level. And that's a big deal for something like Mindy. Of the 51 "approximately same-timeslot" shows examined here, Mindy is 42nd in A18-49 ratings. (And the list includes a bunch of Friday/CW shows!) But it's 16th in ad rates, beating a bunch of shows that averaged upper 2's in 18-49 last season.

2. CBS shows are among the most undervalued, and the CW isn't that far behind. Here are the bottom five in price per L+SD A18-49 point. Usually this list consists almost entirely of Friday/Saturday shows, but none of the Saturday stuff was included this time.

A18-49 Price ($) $/A18-49 diff
Undercover Boss 1.61 55923 34824 -37%
The Amazing Race Fall 2.56 94150 36801 -33%
Criminal Minds 2.87 105678 36864 -33%
Law and Order: SVU 1.73 63970 37084 -33%
20/20 1.45 55900 38552 -30%

The bottom three are CBS, while only one series on the network (The Big Bang Theory) goes above the 51-show average per 18-49 point. Acclaimed The Good Wife, which many would have you believe is some advertiser magnet, is still 14% below average (though it does get a slightly better $/A18-49 than most CBS dramas).

We could do some quibbling on a show-by-show basis. Both Criminal Minds and SVU seem too low to me, especially considering they're both relatively young-skewing by crime drama standards. But the broad stroke isn't all that surprising, as crime dramas generally skew very old. What might be a little more surprising is the CW's performance per 18-49 point, at least among its very limited sample.

A18-49 Price ($) $/A18-49 diff
Supernatural 0.92 39188 42515 -23%
The Vampire Diaries 1.24 55100 44467 -20%
Arrow 1.05 47450 45097 -18%
Hart of Dixie 0.55 26785 48700 -12%

All these shows are a negative double digit percent below the 51-show average, which seems kind of alarming for a network that's supposed to be selling the 18-34 demo that seems so valued on big four shows. While the network's new direction seems promising from a ratings standpoint, they seem to have sacrificed a bit of advertiser-friendliness, as the "rich kid soaps" were typically $/A18-49 overachievers. Maybe the limited reach overall just brings them down a notch, as has been the case on cable over the years.

3. New show speculation: a return to sanity. It's worth noting again that these numbers come in before there are any fall 2013 ratings available, so the new show rates are pretty much entirely speculation-driven. But generally speaking, the trend with the advertisers has been that they get the  broad strokes correct when it comes to speculating on new shows' ratings, though they tend to project that the flops won't flop quite as hard as they do. Last year, though, they did pretty awful. I'm still trying to figure out how The Mob Doctor was the #1 newbie ad rates draw. And Partners was #3, just dollars behind The Mindy Project!

This year, we're back to relatively normal. Nothing in the top five has completely bombed, with Hostages and Betrayal probably the only huge whiffs so far. The full list among stuff that's already premiered:

Price Spec A18-49 diff
The Blacklist 198667 3.2 3.4 +5%
The Crazy Ones 175200 2.9 3.1 +8%
Agents of SHIELD 169730 2.8 3.6 +32%
Sleepy Hollow 139120 2.3 3.1 +37%
Mom 138575 2.3 2.3 +1%
Hostages 134420 2.2 1.5 -31%
Super Fun Night 130823 2.1 2.9 +34%
The Millers 122390 2.0 3.2 +58%
Dads 120100 2.0 1.6 -19%
The Michael J. Fox Show 110000 2.0 1.8 -8%
We Are Men 99520 1.6 1.9 +17%
Betrayal 98235 1.8 1.1 -36%
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 96225 1.6 1.8 +17%
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland 94694 1.5 1.7 +10%
The Goldbergs 93200 1.5 2.4 +58%
Trophy Wife 91175 1.5 1.7 +15%
Sean Saves the World 86900 1.4 1.2 -15%
Lucky 7 86355 1.4 1.0 -29%
MasterChef Junior 84475 1.5 1.4 -6%
Ironside 71500 1.2 1.2 +3%
Back in the Game 70734 1.2 2.0 +71%
Welcome to the Family 62370 1.0 1.0 -6%
The Tomorrow People 36745 0.6 0.9 +51%
The Originals 34740 0.6 1.0 +68%

"Spec" is derived by comparing the price to the 51-returning show $/A18-49 average, and baking in a 10% year-to-year decline. A18-49 averages are through Sunday, October 13, and most will come down significantly by season's end... this is just a general picture. If your "diff" is sharply negative already, it's probably a safe bet that you're underachieving.

4. A couple quick notes on correlation and average price. The linear correlation between Live+SD A18-49 ratings and ad rates remains very strong. This year, among the 51 shows tracked, the correlation coefficient r = 0.91. While still quite good, this is down a bit from the last two years (r = 0.96 two years ago, r = 0.93 last year). If that slight weakening continues over the next year or two, it may be worth looking deeper, but for now it can probably reasonably be chalked up to coincidence/whatever happened to make it into the list of 51 shows. Not worth blowing up the blog over!

Also, the price per A18-49 point across 51 returning shows was $55,304, which was 3% higher than the calculation last year. That's a smaller increase than the usual reports of "upper single digit" CPM increases would suggest; again, it could just be some quirk in the particular selection of shows, or it could be an evening out from last year, when the $/A18-49 appeared to go up by more than the CPM reports. Anyway, this is a bit unsettling given the large -11% league average decline last year. That means the overall dollars are probably decreasing.


Spot said...

But, isn't your A18-49 column based on "so far A18-49" ? Which is not particularly precise as some of newbies already aired 5 episodes, and some CW shows only an episode.
Wouldn't it be better to calculate "diff" column based on, let's say, first 3 episodes of each show's ratings? When they're available, and if you'll have time in between all other stuff you're doing (which I'm endlessly grateful for).

Spot said...

This is true, though the same problem would exist (if lessened a bit) comparing three episodes vs. the occasional inflated premiere. Ideally it would be best to wait till the end of the season, but we all kind of forget about it by then.

Spot said...

How much does Survivor cost per ratings point?

Spot said...

$115,717 / [12.8/5 = 2.56] = $45,202 lol

Spot said...

Some of those "high %" diffs seem to stem from shows that are in theory successes but heavily lead-in dependent.

Spot said...

I have been trying to extrapolate conclusions from this data but some cases are just bizarre. The Criminal Minds-CSI is one of them. There is also the OUAT-Revenge where I don't think I can justify that well the difference. The hypothesis I have formulated to justify it is that the skew that we look at as measure of 18-34 is not that good of a proxy as we have been assuming. I have collected some data of 18-34 ratings when available and compared with the equivalent estimated 18-34 ratings from the skew and there are often big deviations, which is a problem for us if we want to predict things with the type of information we have. One interesting thing is that almost all my analysis seem to attribute a higher explanatory power to the 18-34 portion than to the 18-49 as a whole. Really makes me wonder. I kind of hate it that we don't have access to more demo breakdown.

Spot said...

Outside of NBC Sunday, it seems the most valuable nights are NBC Monday followed by CBS Thursday and ABC Thursday?

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