Friday, November 21, 2014

The New and Improved 2014-15 SpotVault, Phase III: True Tables

As of today, I'm adding a new table for each original entertainment show in the SpotVault, detailing how much each episode's True score is affected by the three (or four) major aspects of the formula. This is probably a dangerous way to go, as it may just serve to expose the problems with the formula, but hopefully that will only motivate further improvements going forward. I'm using this post not just as an explainer for what's in the table but also as a recap of how the formula works in general (and what's new this year).

Here's the table that will appear on each Vault page.

Info Overall Viewing/Competition Lead-in Seasonal
# Date A18-49 True Sitch PUT Comp Defl C+D Sitch LI eLI Sitch Mult Sitch
1 9/16/2014 1.7 1.71 -0.01 -1% 29.6 4.5 1.9 6.5 -0.05 1.0 0.5 -0.25 0.860 +0.28
2 9/23/2014 1.3 1.51 -0.21 -14% 30.9 9.1 -1.2 7.9 -0.19 0.8 0.4 -0.26 0.866 +0.23
3 9/30/2014 1.3 1.53 -0.23 -15% 31.3 8.9 -1.3 7.6 -0.16 0.8 0.6 -0.21 0.916 +0.14
4 10/7/2014 1.4 1.47 -0.07 -5% 32.4 7.8 -1.2 6.6 -0.06 0.9 0.7 -0.19 0.892 +0.18
5 10/14/2014 1.2 1.43 -0.23 -16% 30.8 7.2 0.0 7.2 -0.12 0.6 0.4 -0.26 0.902 +0.16
6 11/4/2014 1.6 1.50 +0.10 +7% 33.2 4.3 0.4 4.7 +0.13 1.9 1.1 -0.12 0.945 +0.09
7 11/11/2014 1.3 1.37 -0.07 -5% 31.0 7.5 -0.3 7.2 -0.12 1.9 1.7 -0.01 0.960 +0.06

AVERAGES: 1.40 1.50 -0.10 -7%
STDDEV: 0.18 0.11
STDDEV%: 13% 7%


These have always been included in the tables: the True score as well as the "Sitch," which is the difference between True and A18-49 (or how much the timeslot is affecting the rating according to this formula). In this table, it's expressed both in numerical and percent terms, as the numerical one is clearer for breaking down how much each individual section matters. Some other numbers are included and will be explained below for the diehards, but all you really need to know is that the Sitch in each of the three sections adds up to get the total effect of the formula.


This part of the formula was the most drastic overhaul for 2014-15. In previous years, there were three components: overall viewing (PUT), competition, and what I called a "holiday" number, which was designed to offset the very low competition figures in low-viewed situations. The basic idea behind "holiday" was that there are two types of competition: competition from other things on TV, and competition from things that pull people away from TV. "Holiday" would account for the second kind.

I decided that the PUT adjustment and the "holiday" one were kind of redundant and endeavored to make it more simple: expressing "competition" as one number that combines "TV competition" and... "non-TV competition" or "holiday" or what it's currently called, "deflation." Taking the overall viewing component out of the formula has a couple significant benefits: it puts less emphasis on the rough PUT estimates, making the formula a little less volatile on a weekly basis. And it also flattens out the weeknights, reducing the viewing-based bias against Sunday shows and toward Thursday shows that has been here from the beginning. (Though it's possible that it flattens out the effect too much for Friday shows; we'll see how it goes this year.)

So here's how viewing/competition are treated: the key number here is the sum of competition + deflation (C+D). The "normal" C+D is 6.0, with "normal" competition expected to be roughly 6.0 and "normal" deflation expected to be roughly 0.0. the True formula gets a bonus for each point above 6.0. This bonus is 0.1 per point for shows with a rating of 2.0 or less, and 5% of the A18-49 rating per point for shows above 2.0.

Here's a vague explanation of what competition and deflation actually are:

Comp (competition): This number should be close to the sum of the A18-49 ratings on the other broadcast networks, but there are some major adjustments in play as well. The biggest is that the 10:00 hour has a significant addition to account for the lack of available Fox/CW numbers. Other sizable exceptions: there's a small addition for all Sunday shows due to the glut of cable competition; broadcast sports events are only counted as 75% of their ratings; and some cable sports events (Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football and some postseason events) are added in at 50% of their ratings.

Defl (deflation): This number combines two formulas that test the relationship between overall viewing and broadcast viewing. Basically, it asks what should the PUT be given the broadcast viewing, and what should the broadcast viewing be given the PUT? When these numbers are lower than they "should" be, Defl returns a positive number that estimates how much overall viewing is deflated. It tends to be sharply negative in high-competition situations (especially football Sundays and Mondays), tempering the effect of competition. I'd like to be able to put that negative portion into the competition and have Defl be close to zero on all weeknights, but I don't have a good way of doing that yet. Maybe next year.

I will note that I held off on releasing all of this for awhile primarily because I was concerned about how low the overall viewing estimates were early in the season. Very early in the fall, I adjusted the normal C+D from 5.0 up to 6.0. And it could probably be another point higher. The good news is that this is affects everything equally. So I might be concerned that everything should be a tenth or so lower in True, but it doesn't really matter from a power rankings standpoint.


This part of the formula is almost unchanged vs. last year. The big change last year was the incorporation of a compatibility adjustment, which treated a show's lead-in as lower if it had a significantly different 18-49 skew.

"LI" is the literal rating for the half-hour before a program aired.
"eLI" (or "effective lead-in") is the number including this compatibility adjustment.

A half-hour show loses 0.1 in True for every 0.5 that its eLI is above the projected league average (1.7), while an hour show loses 0.1 in True for every 0.6.


This part got pretty heavily overhauled as well. In previous editions, I've broken the season apart into two or three pieces and applied one multiplier to each chunk based on "fall hype"; in other words, it's always seemed like early-season episodes are inflated even after applying situational adjustments. I'm trying something new this year, looking at this general idea not as "hype" but as another way of expressing what I call the "league average decline."

Broadcast entertainment original ratings are down about 10% every 52 weeks; when comparing things year-to-year, that 10% gets baked into the cake as a one-time event, but it's surely a more gradual process when breaking it down within a 52-week season. This multiplier ("Mult") applies roughly a 10% "league average decline" evenly across 52 weeks. I wanted it to center around the middle of the regular season, so the break-even point is week 18 rather than week 26. This means that an average week 1 show gets about a 3.5% deduction and an average week 35 show about a 3.5% bonus. (And a show at the end of the summer (week 52) gets about a 7% bonus.) For most shows, this is a fair amount less drastic than the old "fall hype" adjustment; far fewer shows will be exploding in True in the second half of the season. It may ultimately prove to be not drastic enough.

There's an additional skew-related component to this, recognizing the tendency of younger-skewing shows to collapse late in the season because viewing drops more among the younger set. Young-skewing shows like New Girl and The Vampire Diaries get much more severe seasonal adjustments, while ancient-skewing shows like Blue Bloods have a very tiny multiplier across the whole season. In the early season numbers currently available, that means the seasonal adjustment is hurting those young-skewing shows' True numbers considerably, but it will be repaid to them in the spring when their ratings will be expected to drop more. (So if you're wondering why Mult doesn't go up uniformly for every episode, it's due to fluctuations in skew.)

Standard Deviation

Over the years, I have always used the A18-49 and True standard deviations as a test of how the formula is working. The idea is to create a number that's more consistent over the course of the season than raw ratings, so True should have a lower standard deviation than A18-49 in most cases. I've decided at my own peril to put that test into these tables as well, so you will be able to see how much value True is actually adding. Many shows already see significantly lower standard deviations in True (including the one cherry-picked for the above example!), but there are a fair number of shows for which True is doing slightly worse at the moment. For series that have had the same viewing/competition/lead-in pretty much all season, the formula does not add much value right now, so the standard deviation is worse just due to PUT-related noise. A great deal of True's value is in accounting for declines later in the season; so ideally, by the end, the overwhelming majority of shows will have a "better" (lower) standard deviation in True.

I also added the standard deviation as a percentage of the average. (Real statisticians call this the "coefficient of variation.") The percentage works best for comparing across multiple shows, though the actual standard deviation may be better for comparing A18-49 vs. True for one show (since the % might be lower simply because the True numbers are higher).

This is about all I have to say. For the most part, I don't want to get much more specific than this, but if you search the archive of True-related posts you can probably get some sense about some of the older components not detailed here. As of this post going up, the second tables are now live for 2014-15 originals on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The rest should be up by the end of the day. For now, the True/Sitch numbers are also included in the first table on each Vault page, but that's going to change pretty soon.


Spot said...

I'm very much a retentionist, and I have always felt that True undercounts lead in. It's especially important in the first 6 weeks of a show's run. Anyways, it baffled me how The Millers could have a negative Stitch last spring with sub 50% retention out of Big Bang. Yeah, the slot is low viewed, but it has less than 50% retention!

Spot said...

There are reports of multiple preemptions across all networks due to the Obama speech so take all these ratings with a grain of salt.

In any case, TGIT did well as usual, particularly Murder of course. On CBS, Mom is looking like a winner for the first time but we really need finals for this. If Elementary is adjusted down again as it has been all season (if I am not mistaken) then we are looking at sub 1.0 levels already. Parenthood is certainly inflated and I imagine the comedies are as well.

Spot said...

For what it's worth, those points would be positive Sitch in the new formula. The real "problem" was the more generous viewing adjustments.

Spot said...

I'd find it unusual if network affiliates decided to preempt portions of primetime for the speech since the networks all announced they weren't covering it. The only markets where I could see that happening are ones on the East Coast (Miami specifically) and in Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin). West coast affiliates wouldn't have this problem.

Spot said...

I have seen people claiming that NY was preempted too. I have no actual idea, just going by what I am reading in other sites.

Spot said...

Ever so slightly disappointed over the fact that Grey's and Scandal didn't experience a bump. Which is, admittedly, weird. I wonder if the presumptions will give a tenth or two to them.

Spot said...

By the way, ABC has already won the week even without Fridays (and Sundays) being included.

And there is a legitimate risk that CBS again finishes with another week with close to a 20% year to year drop. That is insane. It would be the third one.

Spot said...

That would be odd since NYC stations are more likely to be O&O stations. Then again, NBC's O&O here messes with things like the Nightly News for more local news.

I feel like NY would be preempted for the snow storm coverage, and even then that'd only be the Buffalo area. If I owned a station out there I'd have a subchannel that just live streaming the 7-10 feet of snow falling.

Spot said...

Not to mention that ABC's going to have big week-to-week growth on Sunday thanks to the American Music Awards.

Spot said...

On that note: there'll be NY and Buffalo preemptions on CBS on Monday because the Jets-Bills game has been rescheduled to Monday 7 ET (in Detroit, but also delayed because the Bills have missed two practice sessions due to being snowed in). Expect inflated CBS numbers in Monday prelims.

Back to last night, brutal one for CBS potentially, but I guess we'll see how TBBT adjusts.

Spot said...

I believe you, I don't actually know it. We shall see what happens with the finals .

Spot said...

If I had to guess, those big loses for CBS are coming from Tuesday at 10, Wednesday at 10, and Thursday at 10. Is that about right?

Spot said...

Yeah, but the fact that they don't even need Sundays to win the week is a great accomplishment.

Spot said...

DC was preempted too, at or least delayed. BBT didn't start here until about 8:25 or so.

Spot said...

I think the both shows might adjust up because of delays in some markets but it is a little disappointing. At least How to Get Away with Murder was up.

Spot said...

And Friday at 8.

Spot said...

Criminal Minds, NCIS and The Big Bang Theory are down a lot too.

Spot said...

And, of course, Monday at 8. That's a lot of timeslots.

Spot said...

If I still DVR'ed The Big Bang Theory I'd be annoyed with that since Comcast's listings wouldn't have adjusted. Good thing that WDCW doesn't have a news department to mess with The Vampire Diaries.

Spot said...

According to information, I'm getting several ABC affiliates in Chicago, Indy and Houston delayed the shows airing by 15 minutes. Don't know if it they're big enough to make an impact but still.

Spot said...

Mondays at 8 are very ugly too and NCIS is quietly having a bad fall, though this week's result was more positive than usual too. Fridays and Sundays at 8 are also not helping.

Counting from week 6 onwards only (which is when the real Monday and Thursday lineups were in place), the year to year trends are:
- Mondays 8: -36%
- Mondays 9: -4%
- Mondays 10: +42%

- Tuesdays 8: -17%
- Tuesdays 9: -12%
- Tuesdays 10: -22%

[*The Tuesday results exclude week 7 which was repeats and election coverage]

- Wednesdays 8: -5%
- Wednesdays 9: -12%
- Wednesdays 10: -20%

- Thursdays 8: -5%
- Thursdays 9: -9%
- Thursdays 10: -36%
[*The Thursday results include this week's potentially inflated preliminary numbers]

- Fridays 8: -29%
- Fridays 9: -15%
- Fridays 10: -3%
[*The Friday results exclude the week of the Hollywood Awards]

- Sundays at 8: - 24%
- Sundays at 9: -21%
- Sundays at 10: -16%

Spot said...

Chicago is the third largest market, and Houston is the fourth. So if that's the case, we may see adjustments reminiscent of Premiere Week but these will actually be real.

Spot said...

I'm also currently listening that there were also delays, by 15 minutes, on Boston as well.

Spot said...

Haven't there been at least small demo declines for The Big Bang Theory nearly every season, albeit smaller than the programming average for most consecutive season declines? I honestly don't pay that close attention to its rating week after week but it seems to be declining a bit more this year than in previous years considering both its Monday and now Thursday ratings. Do the scholarly ratings experts on Spotted think this is due mostly to the temporary move

Spot said...

Elementary has the time slot of death. I'm not sure anything could do stupendously there, given the 1.4 lead-in that is unlikely to significantly improve as the season moves on. Since CBS has a huge investment in Elementary and its syndication money, I'd think about moving it to Fridays, where I could actually see it improving as part of a H50/Blue Boods/Elementary "Crime Friday". Then I'd move TAR to Monday at 8, because I actually think its a far better lead-in for Scorpion than two comedies. Re-set the Thursday block as TBBT/Mom/Two Half/2 Broke Girls and hold Odd Couple/Mike & Molly for summer, or after TAR finishes off its cycle. Or pull Stalker, burn off episodes in the summer and make it Odd Couple/Mike & Molly at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Survivor at 9 p.m., Criminal Minds at 10 p.m. Move CSI Cyber to Thursday 10 p.m. and see if it can self-start. I know none of this will ever happen, but CBS has real issues that are starting to show up and they need to make some kind of move.

Spot said...

I'd guess that the jerkaround between Mondays and Thursdays is a bigger contributing reason to The Big Bang Theory's decline.

ABC getting into the game with Grey's Anatomy, though, shouldn't be undersold; last season TBBT/The Millers was pretty much the only game in town as Fox's X-Factor was flailing its way towards cancellation and NBC & ABC were still out of the game with poor sitcoms and a drama spinoff, respectively.

This season? Fox is a little down and NBC is a little up, but ABC's still got a legit hit in Grey's. TBBT has real scripted competition for the first time ever.

Spot said...

I'm hoping for a good old fashioned 3 tenth adjustment from the Big Banh Theory, because this is a really ugly result. Last year the week before Thanksgiving it had a 5.3! That's a -25% y2y data point!
Also crazy that last week Modern Family had a 3.2 and Big Bang a 4.5. 41% stronger. This week each moved at least .5 to a 3.7 and 4.0 respectively. Only 8%!

Spot said...

Personally, I blame Kaley Cuoco's new haircut.

Spot said...

New layout is great. Though, it might be confusing for those not familiar with True.

Have you considered running new formula against previous seasons data?
Few interesting examples.
1. The 100 vs The Tomorrow People?
The 100 "win" should be even bigger considering new "Seasonal" favors midseason shows. At least it seems so to me.

2. Similar should happen with The Secret Circle late season collapse, new formula should be more harsh to it, than to more steady decline of Hart of Dixie / Gossip Girl / 90210 during that season.

3. About a Boy vs Growing Up Fisher?
Probably remains a tie in True, it seems this changes are neutral for that matchup.

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