(This is part two of a series of questions
addressed by a panel of media agency executives. The first part appeared in
Thursday's MBPT newsletter, and can be accessed here.)
With the broadcast networks announcing their new fall
schedules at their upfront presentations, everyone now has an opinion on those
new shows and the ways each network tries to draw more viewers. But what
matters most to networks at this juncture is what the media agencies think, and
what advice they give to their marketer clients that will spend billions in
MBPT gathered four veteran media agency programming research
executives and tossed 10 questions at them based on these myriad network moves.
The execs are: Brian Hughes, senior VP, audience analysis, MagnaGlobal; Sam
Armando, senior VP-director, strategic intelligence, SMGx; Billie Gold, VP,
director of buying/programming research at Carat; and Brad Adgate, senior
VP-director, research, Horizon Media.
Will The CW's
decision to shake up its schedule by keeping only one of its returning shows in
the same time period next season help or hurt its ratings? Or does it matter?
Brian Hughes: It makes
sense for two reasons. First, with recent on-air ratings declines, change was
inevitable. And second, I think The CW sees its target audience as on-demanders.
Consider how the streaming audience has become such an integral part of their
business. With that approach, time periods aren't necessarily as meaningful as
they might be on other networks.
Sam Armando: Given the performance of The CW this
season, anything less than a shakeup would have been disappointing. While the
lineup has been shaken up, the vision is once again focused. [CW entertainment
president] Mark Pedowitz backed up his "we are all about adults 18-34"
statement with programming that supported that strategy. The CW looks very
WB-like and that's not a bad thing. The CW's mistake was losing their identity
as a niche broadcast network. Although that sounds hypocritical, it gives them
the unique position they lacked recently, which makes the size of its ratings
just a little less important.
Billie Gold: It doesn't matter that much because
their viewers -- a small but loyal audience to begin with -- seem to find the
shows both on TV and online. For any other network, this would be a huge
mistake. I just don't think it will help their ratings though.
Brad Adgate: The CW had to do something to shake
things up and the investment in programming is a wise one. If that doesn't
work, what will?
Did CBS improve its
Thursday night by moving Two and a
Half Men to lead out of The Big Bang Theory and by replacing The Mentalist at 10 p.m. with freshman drama Elementary?
Hughes: Given how successful moving Big Bang to Thursdays has
proven to be, shifting Two and a Half Men makes a lot of sense.
Undoubtedly, they are hoping to revitalize that show in the same way. And while
we can't say that Elementary will be
as strong as The Mentalist, it seems to be aimed at a very similar
audience, so it's a measured risk.
Armando: Simple math says "yes." Even if Two and a Half Men loses about 25% of
its Monday rating, it will still improve CBS' time period rating on Thursday.
Chances were great that The Mentalist would remain fairly strong but it
would not increase its ratings over this year. With less drama competition at
10 p.m. on Thursday next season thanks to NBC, CBS has a chance to get a little
younger with Elementary,plus
increase the audience for the night.
Gold: Not sure this was the right move for them
because stability has been one of their great assets. Two and a Half Men
had started to fade a bit this season and obviously they are trying to give it
a jolt by putting it behind comedy's newest big thing, TheBig Bang Theory, as well as start a new night of comedy.
But I think it will damage their Monday night strength. As for The Mentalist moving to Sunday, I think
it will do okay there, but it will get disrupted by football in fourth quarter
and might start to lose viewers. In my opinion, not a smart move, but I guess
they wanted to give their new drama Elementary the best shot of survival
following the thriving Person of Interest on Thursdays.
Adgate: I'm not sure if CBS really improved by making
this move. I think a lot of people thought they would have expanded the
Thursday night comedy block to two hours next fall. It was a little surprising
to see Â¡Rob! cancelled. It certainly had performed better than its
predecessors at 8:30 leading out of Big Bang. The ratings for Two and
a Half Men have been slipping once the novelty of Ashton Kutcher wore off
and it is now entering its 10th season. Looking at 10 p.m., it is always a
ratings risk to put a new show in a time period in which an established show
had flourished, even for CBS.
NBC will no doubt
use its two weeks of Olympics coverage in August to promote its new
fall shows. Does airing promo spots in major sporting events have any more
impact on viewers than promo spots randomly aired on regularly scheduled
Hughes: It may contribute to some initial sampling, but it can't make a
show into a hit. As an example, the most heavily promoted show during the 2008
Olympic Games on NBC was My Own Worst Enemy. It's also tricky because
the age profile of the Olympics may not necessarily be the same as the audience
a new series is targeting.
Armando: The fact that the Olympics will have a far
bigger audience than any regular programming, especially in August, makes a
great impact possible. Promotion in the Olympics translating to consistent huge
audiences for primetime fare, however, is far from a sure bet. Let's face it,
NBC has used the Olympics as a promotion tool every time it has been on and
based on its recent performance, it has not contributed as much as one is led
to believe. If it did, NBC would be in a better position today.
Gold: The Olympic platform might garner greater
initial reach, but so many shows that NBC has pumped during the Olympics have
failed miserably. Again, I think it might build awareness for a show a little
quicker, but that certainly does not guarantee a program's success.
Adgate: I think promoting new shows on the Olympics
builds awareness but if viewers watch one episode and don't like it, and go on
social media to express their negative opinion, all the promos will not help.
In 2004, when the Olympics were in Athens and the Games ended August 29, NBC
even premiered shows immediately following and they all failed, including the
heavily promoted Joey. The programs have to resonate with viewers to be
CBS has the Super
Bowl next season so it more than likely will beat Fox in the 18-49 demo and end
Fox's run of wins, but can CBS do it if you factor out the Super Bowl night
Hughes: Even without the Super Bowl, it will be very close. It always
is. So in short, yes, CBS can do it. But they might not.
Armando: First, the Super Bowl should always be
factored out. It is not bought as part of a primetime mix and average ratings
that include it simply do not reflect what one has in primetime plans. Outside
of the Super Bowl, it would take the perfect storm for CBS to overtake Fox and,
quite frankly, the clouds above primetime are getting dark. If American Idol
once again drops significantly and CBS' veteran shows can once again defy odds
and remain flat to slightly up, then it is very much possible. American Idol
was the key to Fox reaching the top in the demo and it looks as though it will
be the key to it falling from first as well.
Gold: Even without the Super Bowl, CBS has been neck
and neck in the 18-49 demo with whatever network carried the big game. Even if
CBS gets edged out in the demo, it will still be a close second thanks to the
strength of their base schedule and other award shows such as The Grammys.
Adgate: Whether CBS could beat out Fox without
factoring in the Super Bowl will be dependent on whether American Idol
continues to fall the way it did in 2011-12. A factor is whether Jennifer Lopez
returns as a judge and who they get to replace her if she doesn't. We know at
least that it won't be Britney Spears.
What will be the
first new show cancelled? And who on a freshman show will become a breakout
Hughes: We don't like to speculate on cancellations. As far as breakout
stars, I'd have to go with Crystal the Capuchin monkey from NBC's Animal Practice.
Armando: A lot of people will point to The
Neighbors on ABC and rightfully so. The concept [of aliens as neighbors]
can work as 3rd Rock Fromthe Sun showed. Ultimately, however, The
Neighbors will be measured by what it loses from its monstrous lead-in from
Modern Family. If a show like Happy
Endings lost about 40% of the Modern Family lead-in, what will The
Neighbors lose? While there are a lot of decent, potentially solid new
shows, there were no clips that indicated "breakout star" potential. CW's Arrow,
despite expected small ratings, has the look of being a perfect fit for CW as
does Elementary on CBS. The one to watch is The Following on Fox. I do not see middle of the road here. It will
either get a big "following" or an audience too small to justify its expense.
Gold: It's so hard to say, not having yet seen all
the pilots, but some good contenders are Animal Practice on NBC and The
Neighbors on ABC. The premise of both made upfront audiences laugh, but not
in a good way. On the drama side, 666 Park Avenue was a bit dark and
seemed to be more of a cable show and might not get mass appeal on a broadcast
network. As for the next breakout star, I didn't see a Zooey Deschanel in next
season's casts, but Made in Jersey's
lead character Janet Montgomery might pop should the show do well. Then, of
course, there's Crystal the Capuchin monkey [from NBC's Animal Practice].
Adgate: I think Animal Practice on NBC might
be cancelled first. The clips weren't that funny and expecting to lead-off a
night with a first-year comedy is difficult, especially going up against a more
established comedy block on ABC.
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