Monday, June 9, 2014

A18-49+: The Deeper Networks Post


The A18-49+ theme posts combine all of the individual season info in one specific category, allowing us to line up the last eleven 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 first networks post looked at eleven years of the network race using what I consider the best available measurement of network strength: an average of their original non-sports series ratings. This one adds three additional angles: it widens to overall ratings (including repeats, sports and specials), then narrows in on scripted originals, then breaks the scripted originals into the still narrower comedies and dramas. I don't like any of these on their own as much as all originals, but they help supplement/explain those basic numbers. For today, we're just doing the big four. The netlets may be added in a future year, but they probably wouldn't be that interesting anyway (as they have little to no sports/comedies).



Overall Ratings (Original Series + Repeats, Sports, Specials)

Year ABC CBS NBC Fox
Overall vs.O Overall vs.O Overall vs.O Overall vs.O
2001-0284+291-2124-4**93+2*
2002-0385-2*88-3103-1198-11
2003-0480-3960*105-1298-7
2004-0592-498-787-1199-2*
2005-0697-4*93-1280-4**101-12
2006-0790-1794-5*79-3104-18
2007-0886-1384-979-8120-9*
2008-0988-1296-884+2*110-10
2009-1086-1399-7*89+11**115-8
2010-1186-1296-1081+4118-10*
2011-1286-10104-1190+13*113-6
2012-1385-8113+4*95+297-8
2013-1487-997-9122+19**107+13*
2014-1597-6104+4117+17*87-7
2015-1692-4120+18*117+15980

*- includes Super Bowl
**- includes Winter Olympics

"vs.O" is the difference between the overall rating and the originals-only rating used in the first networks post. In other words, it measures how much all the "other stuff" affects the network's overall rating.

The main takeaway here is the increased impact of sports. In the first half of the table, not a single network ever finished with a higher overall average than original average. The streak finally ended in 2008-09, when a distant fourth-place entertainment network got a one-point boost from both Sunday Night Football AND the Super Bowl.

These days, the huge sports events are game-changers in the network rankings, frequently making a double-digit difference compared to the surrounding years. Even in a year when Fox's entertainment department declined by twelve points, it was up by nine overall because of a huge boost from the "other stuff," namely the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.

By itself, NBC's Sunday Night Football more than cancels out all the other filler NBC airs (see 2012-13). Throw in a Super Bowl or an Olympics, and NBC is now regularly capable of a double-digit boost relative to their entertainment department. The 2017-18 season could be truly staggering, as NBC gets both the Super Bowl and the Olympics (plus four more years of sports ratings becoming more favorable in general).



Scripted Originals Only

Year ABC CBS NBC Fox
Scripted vs.O Scripted vs.O Scripted vs.O Scripted vs.O
2001-0294+12940145+1796+4
2002-0387094+3125+1193-15
2003-0479-496+1122+584-21
2004-05108+12113+7103+685-16
2005-06114+13110+590+691-22
2006-07117+10104+490+999-23
2007-08102+4101+896+8104-25
2008-09105+5107+483+1104-16
2009-10102+4106079+2100-23
2010-11100+3109+375-2101-26
2011-12106+10121+666-1198-21
2012-1398+5114+576-1787-19
2013-1499+3110+483-2084-10
2014-15107+4103+380-2093-1
2015-16970102089-1396-3

"Uns" is the difference between the all-originals average and the scripted-only average. In other words, it measures "the scripted effect"; how much scripted programs affect the original series average if you start with all originals.

Since the rise of Dancing with the Stars and the resurgence of The Bachelor on ABC, both ABC and CBS have been pretty consistent; their original average is roughly five points lower than their scripted-only average. Therefore, the last seven years or so have tracked very closely with the scripted programming trajectories. ABC's slow decline since the peak years of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy is reflected in the scripted numbers, while CBS' brief surge to dominance in 2011-12 and disappointment since were also scripted-driven.

Fox and NBC are much more driven by unscripted developments. Fox got a reliable 20-point boost from Idol for about nine years. Its prime period occurred when it was able to combine the Death Star with scripted programming that was just a bit above average. And the fall of Fox in recent years has also been largely unscripted-driven. In fact, the Fox of 2012-13 and 2013-14 has scripted programming that's very reminiscent of Fox just before it entered its prime (2003-06), and Empire made it even better in 2014-15. The difference is that Idol isn't worth 20 points anymore.

Meanwhile, NBC is now getting about the same-sized boost from two yearly cycles of The Voice that Fox long received from Idol, a boost that takes a fourth-place scripted network and makes it a fairly close second among all originals. NBC of 2013-14 and 2014-15 looks quite similar to Fox a decade earlier. But as I've said before, the big question is just how much longer The Voice will be capable of that kind of boost.



Comedy/Drama Split

Year ABC CBS NBC Fox
Comedy Drama Comedy Drama Comedy Drama Comedy Drama
2001-029196125851751339795
2002-0388851069015611410982
2003-048275110931341178979
2004-0568136102116941057791
2005-065913588116948972105
2006-0757129101104869186104
2007-0869107115991059497110
2008-096511111510510279101104
2009-1090105124102987387106
2010-11107981331039469102101
2011-12119101175108766110494
2012-13979916710271799380
2013-14941011459768868087
2014-151131051469566838996
2015-161089114395659377108

During NBC's darkest days in the late aughts, comedy was actually a notable kinda-bright spot (often trailing only CBS). The darkness was mostly about the network's massive incompetence in drama development. Aside from a couple slightly positive years lining up with the first two seasons of Heroes (2006-08), it was a pretty consistent collapse from 2003-04 to 2011-12. Now, the network has The Voice and is getting its act together to some degree in drama. But despite a positive trend overall, the comedy department (pretty steady for quite awhile after the last Friends year in 2003-04) has totally fallen apart. And it's continued even with a The Voice lead-in juicing Go On and About a Boy in the last couple years.

Bad as it is for NBC comedy right now, it's still not as ugly as ABC's comedies in the worst of the pre-Modern Family years. Now that they have a relatively healthy comedy setup, it's easy to forget just how hideously things were going there, even alongside what was easily the strongest drama department in the A18-49+ era.



A18-49+ Recaps
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4 comments:

Spot said...

I think it's interesting that you are trying out other metrics to measure a network's strength. You didn't, however, touch what I think will be a key point moving forward which is how much networks are invested in not having repeats.

It seems pretty clear to me that, let's say, FOX, should be valued, and not undervalued, for airing original stuff on Mondays basically all season long versus something like CBS where the amount of repeats is still pretty large.
ABC's trend of split seasons also increases this need. It's a bit strange to me that if they air something like The Taste which is below originals average their average is brought down but that if they don't care and air the even lower rated GA and Scandal repeats their average goes up.
There is also the case of ABC Saturdays originals this summer which despite having ratings just slightly higher than repeats from other networks, will hurt ABC more in the average.
Finally you have the repeat beasts like TBBT, Whose Line or Shark Tank, which should add value to their network's average, not be indifferent.

In my opinion, because the value of repeats is getting lower and lower and because networks are being more and more selective on what they air, I think the metric should include repeats somehow. I would like to see a metric that is network's average excluding sport, but including everything else, such as repeats.

Spot said...

No, Spot is doing it correctly, he filters out part of ratings not being important for profit of networks. Adding repeats in averages would be wrong. Because repeats cost nothing, so one cannot average them with originals that cost quite a lot (scripted) or non-zero (unscripted). I suppose one could add repeats on top of originals... but that's probably lot of work for practically no gain.

Spot said...

ABC tried to avoid having to repeat their serial dramas, but they still ended up repeating Shark Tank 19 times in season! And Sunday got a bunch of sucky Bachelor specials that ended up going sub 1. I did like their 2 week sweep time stint of airing Disney-Pixar movies on Sundays. Would have been cool to see Shield go a hiatus and air Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3 during the hiatus. It would be great network synergy and probably outrate repeats of Shield, Goldbergs, Trophy Wife, and original Killer Woman

Spot said...

True. I feel like individual shows could maybe have a formula that factors in how well it repeats. COPS, Betty White's Off Their Rockers, Hollywood Game Night, and Whose Line is it Anyway are or were never big hits but were worth more because they repeated so well. Many times repeats can match or beat originals.

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