Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Adults 18-34 Primer, Part 2: Which Shows Skew 18-34?

Last time, the adults 18-34 primer began by introducing the 18-34 audience, from its potential importance in ratings analysis to how often it watches TV in the broadest senses compared to the larger 18-49 demo. This time, the focus shifts to what people really care about: individual shows!

There are really two ways of incorporating a new rating into the conversation. We can just stay on the paradigm we all know pretty well (18-49 ratings) and use 18-34 to color around it, or we can dive right in with a formula that combines them into one all-new, grand unified metric. I think the first approach is more practical, more useful as a starting point, and (with how relatively little we have to go on) probably more mathematically sound for now. So that's what this post will try to accomplish. In the last post, we'll take an unscientific stab at the other approach.

This post examines a selection of broadcast shows using their 18-34 ratings as a percentage of their 18-49 ratings (what we called "34/49" in the first post). Basically, the higher a show is listed in this article, the more the 18-34 might "help" what we think of as its 18-49 ratings situation. It shouldn't be looked at as a hierarchy of strength on its own. You can skew heavily toward 18-34 by percentage but still have weak overall volume. Think of it not as a "How strong is this show?" metric, but a "How much might 18-34 ratings help this show?" metric.

On the Numbers Used

A couple other notes: just so we don't get too repetitive, I will mostly be talking about big shows in a big picture way in this post. I'll use A18-49+, an 18-34 version of Plus, and the labels that come with those numbers to sort shows in very broad strokes. The next post will be more of a drill-down into marginal/bubble shows, making the usual adjustments for timeslot seen in the True formula.

The "A18-34+" stat is exactly what you'd think: the historical-adjusted statistic A18-49+, except it compares 18-34 ratings to the 18-34 league average. Since I don't have 18-34 for the full season, what I did was use the 34/49 ratio for the episodes I do have, compare that to the league average, and apply that ratio to the full season A18-49+ (thru March 9). So it's more of a projection of the full season than a hard number, but it should be pretty close.

And finally: the most important thing you need to remember about the first post is the average ratio between entertainment 18-34 ratings and 18-49 ratings on the big four networks: 71%. That's the standard all the 34/49 numbers will be compared against.

The Triple-Digits Club (over 100% 34/49 ratio)

There are exactly seven shows on the big four networks with a higher 18-34 rating average than 18-49 rating average. And as of February, they all air on two nights on the same network.

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
American Dad! 112% 100 157
Family Guy 111% 125 197
The Mindy Project 109% 71 109
Bob's Burgers 108% 93 142
New Girl 107% 91 137
Glee 102% 74 106
The Simpsons 100% 126 178

A 100%+ ratio is enough with a decent-sized show to impact the Plus by more than a full label. The Simpsons and Family Guy are borderline hits in 18-49 but creeping up on megahits in 18-34! The second-tier animated shows come in right around the league average in 18-49 but are borderline big hits in 18-34!

And while I promised I wouldn't talk about bubble shows, I do want to note that from this table you can at least start to see where Fox is coming from with shows like Glee and The Mindy Project. They're on the flop borderline in 18-49 but actually above the league average in 18-34.

The Second-Tier Comedies (90-100% 34/49 ratio)

Outside of Fox's big seven, there are only five other shows on the big four that even break a 90% ratio:

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
Community 100% 57 81
Parks and Recreation 95% 62 83
How I Met Your Mother 94% 162 214
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 93% 78 103
The Bachelor 92% 133 172

We're still in a territory where this kind of ratio can make you a vastly different player in 18-34. Community and Parks are miles behind the 18-49 league average, but make up over half that distance in 18-34. How I Met Your Mother goes from squarely a big hit to squarely a megahit. And Brooklyn Nine-Nine ekes past the league average.

A quick note on How I Met Your Mother: when you get to the last section of this post, it will really drill home what an incredible anomaly HIMYM is within the context of its network. It has a 34/49 ratio of 94%, but there are only two other shows on the entire network that even go above the 71% league average! (Those would be 2 Broke Girls (74%), which quite possibly only gets there because it has HIMYM as a lead-in, and Hostages (74%).) As we'll see later, the vast majority of shows on the network fall somewhere in the fifties. How I Met Your Mother is completely on an island on CBS.

While HIMYM's great skew does translate somewhat - HIMYM scores more $ per A18-49 point than almost anything else on CBS - the show is still slightly below the league average $/A18-49 across all five networks, when it should probably be at least somewhat above. There could be any number of other reasons for this (maybe it's not strong enough in an individual gender), but it also makes me wonder if a factor in some of these rates is a larger network reputation. In other words, CBS' reputation as a very old-skewing network prevents the show from being a truly elite advertiser draw, even though its individual raw rating numbers say it should be one. Just a theory, and one that may not really matter beyond this season. Outliers of HIMYM's ilk are quite rare.

The CW (90-100%)

Almost everything on the 18-34-lovin' CW also falls roughly in the nineties, making the network more competitive with (but still well behind) the big four by that standard. Their five early renewals all ranged from 88-101:

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
The Vampire Diaries 101% 54 78
The Originals 92% 49 63
Supernatural 91% 53 69
Arrow 90% 50 63
Reign 88% 32 39

...with a few of the marginal shows falling just outside of that range. We'll save those for next time!

Big Events (85-95%)

Let's take a quick step outside of the entertainment series realm and look at some of those big events that bring massive amounts of 18-49 adults to the TV. Almost all of them do a significantly better job (relative to entertainment series) bringing in 18-34 adults:

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
Super Bowl 96% 2003 2707
Grammy Awards 92% 505 653
Academy Awards 89% 668 833
NFC Championship Game 88% 969 1199
Golden Globe Awards 86% 331 402
Sunday Night Football 85% 404 486
Winter Olympics 72% 271 275

Most of these events are in a tight range. A big exception to this is the Winter Olympics, which are much closer to the league average. I've hypothesized since February that the Olympics are demographically more like entertainment programming than sports like, say, the NFL. There were a couple reasons for this: 1) Overall viewing didn't really go up during the Olympic weeks, implying that most of the Olympic audience would normally be watching something else on TV; and 2) The few originals that aired against the Olympics got slammed, even though the Olympics weren't that big. I mean, Sunday/Monday shows go up against even higher-rated football in the fall and don't seem that much weaker than when there's no football.

The above table is a third piece of evidence supporting that theory: the Olympics' 18-34 skew is almost exactly in line with the entertainment league average. So it seems feasible that the Olympics are largely sucking their audience off the similar-skewing other networks, while the other big events are bringing in a crowd that's not that representative of the primetime norm. That could be part of why the networks largely avoid the Olympics like the plague, even though the ratings weren't that incredible.

The Top Dramas (80-90%)

Beyond what we've covered, there are only a handful of other series that even break 80%, which would seem to be roughly the threshold where you have enough 18-34 skew for it to maybe start mattering. These female-friendly dramas are the most notable ones:

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
Scandal 87% 155 190
Parenthood 85% 65 78
Grey's Anatomy 82% 139 162
Law and Order: SVU 81% 91 103

Scandal and Grey's in particular were shows whose ad rates overachieved their A18-49 ratings. These shows are only somewhat stronger in A18-34+, but they surely get an even bigger bump in the female half of the demo.

There's then a small cluster of comedies that break into the low 80's, but most of those would seem to be too far off the 18-49 map (Mixology (84%), Super Fun Night (82%)), on a network with too high 18-34 standards (Dads (81%)), or both (Raising Hope (81%)) for this small bit of help to matter.

About Average (60-80%)

It feels like we've covered a lot of territory, but it's really just a small percentage of the big four's programming. If your show hasn't been mentioned yet, it's unlikely that the 18-34 skew is helping it out in any meaningful way. Here's a selection of notable shows of all shapes and sizes that are within roughly ten percentage points of that 71% league average.

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
Bones 77% 93 100
Once Upon a Time 76% 113 122
Modern Family 75% 184 195
The Voice Mon Fall 74% 204 213
2 Broke Girls 74% 135 140
Shark Tank 74% 100 104
Sleepy Hollow 73% 133 137
American Idol Wed 73% 168 172
Agents of SHIELD 69% 132 128
The Big Bang Theory 69% 267 259
The Blacklist 66% 151 141
Dancing with the Stars Fall 62% 110 96

Most of CBS (50-60%)

Every network has at least one show that goes well above that 71% league average ratio. But one network's got a monopoly on the ones well below it: CBS. Only one show on the other four networks combined even goes below 60%: poor The Neighbors at 57%.

34/49 A18-49+ A18-34+
Criminal Minds 62% 129 112
Mike and Molly 61% 117 100
Two and a Half Men 59% 115 96
The Amazing Race Fall 59% 102 85
The Good Wife 58% 75 61
NCIS 55% 153 118
NCIS: Los Angeles 53% 128 96
Person of Interest 50% 103 73
Survivor Fall 49% 125 87

NCIS is hoping to hang onto another season as a big hit in A18-49+, but it's not even a hit by 18-34 standards! And Person of Interest, a solid, league average show, is on the flop borderline using A18-34+. While the reality is not nearly as harsh as mere A18-34+ ratings would indicate, this tendency is definitely reflected in the ad rates; virtually everything on CBS gets fewer ad dollars per 18-49 point than the average broadcast show. This is a key part of why a hybrid between the two ratings shows the best correlation with ad rates. Not only does it help many of the high-ratio shows look better, but it brings the CBS shows down a peg.

Though this means the CBS model may not be quite as stout as it looks using just 18-49 ratings, this whole thing really only matters in the larger "state of the networks" picture. Fortunately for the individual shows, they're competing against other shows on the same network, and all the other CBS shows skew far away from 18-34 as well. That's why all this 18-34 stuff ultimately doesn't add that much to our assessment of marginal shows. There are big differences when you look "inter-network," which I tried to illustrate in this post, but on an "intra-network" basis, the networks are pretty cohesive in an 18-34 sense. To sum it up quite simply: Fox and CW have almost all the really heavy 18-34-skewing shows, CBS has almost all the light 18-34-skewing shows, and almost everything on ABC/NBC falls fairly close to the middle.

The cases of sizable intra-network 18-34 differences among shows on the margins are relatively rare. But there are a few of them. How much difference does it make? That's a surface we'll try to scratch next time.


Spot said...

I always thought that it was the younger skew of How I Met Your Mother that helped the show in its first few years. While it wasn't the broad-base big hit it is today, HIMYM was certainly the youngest show, median-age wise, on an older-skewing network. Cue the rallying cry of "Save Hostages!" because it's the youngest-skewing drama on CBS!

And I'm amused that you filed The Bachelor as a second-tier comedy.

Spot said...

HIMYM also has aired *most* of its run leading off the night. It probably helped it stand on its own.

Spot said...

This is quite fascinating. I guess all those cries of "Fox is for young people, CBS is for old people" are pretty accurate. Though it's funny how Fox has a better proportion of super-young-skewing shows (100+%) than even CW which is basically made for young people.

Spot said...

Thank you for the effort, I appreciate it much. This is far better than TVBTN and their rigid one-easy-spreadsheet model (sadly, in turn their predictions are far better than "predictions" of Aussiellos and Nellies of the world, those are based on hear-say from their insider acquaintances, and usually are way too much renewal-friendly for fan pleasing reasons). But you're not quite there, you're just going into the right direction. Because this is still back engineering, and in real world everything is based on selling ads.

For example, CBS would be insane to try selling half of (for example) NCIS inventory at the price they can get for show's A18-34 ratings (around 1.5), they'll try (and succeed) to sell 100% of ads at the price show can get for its A18-49 (which is at almost double higher, near 3.0). I mean, networks always try to sell the strongest demo of the particular show. As opposed to making some hybrid ratings with weighting in different stuff, then offering it to the buyers. That's good enough for back engineering, but it would be insane to do so in real life - by weighing in weaknesses of the show, network would deliberately try to sell ad space at the price lower than the best possible they can get. Why would Fox selling people even try to sell The Mindy Project at it's meager 1.4 A18-49 (or slightly better A18-34, around 1.5), when show's at something like 2.0 in W18-34? There's easier ways to get fired.

I allow there might be the cases where network tries to sell show's strongest demo, but it's not able to sell all of show's inventory in that demo. So network settles to sell the rest of ad space to ad agencies looking for different (not show's strongest) demo. I'm looking at you, The Vampire Diaries. In those ad surveys this show always somehow comes out shorter than it's (relatively for CW) very strong W18-34 would suggest. It's either because they're forced to sell part of TVD inventory as A18-49, either ad surveys are not precise enough (too small sample for The CW netlet). In such cases hybrid formula might be exactly what's needed. But I'd call it exception from the rule "too each show it's target demo".

Spot said...

Survivor has a higher skew than many other CBS shows. It must have a massive 35-49 audience!

Spot said...

Yes, I have noticed that too (and it was the same way with last season's numbers). There are just some shows that are quirky like that. Bones is another one; much lower Skew than shows like Sleepy Hollow/Following but actually a higher 34/49. So it must have very few 35-49 viewers.

Spot said...

I think it might have something to do with appealing to people in their 20s back in 2000. Now, those people are in the 35-49 range.

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