MBPT Spotlight: Beyond Ratings, Strata Survey Tells How Viewers Feel About Shows

TV’s highest rated shows aren’t necessarily audience favorites, particularly when it comes to some of the new shows launched this broadcast season.

A new survey from Strata, a media buying and selling software company provides some different ways of looking at the methods by which people regard TV and select what they want to watch. The data proves especially interesting at a time when DVRs and VOD are separating individual programs from their networks, and traditional, linear networks are under assault from online programmers such as Netflix and Hulu.

While ratings remain the key measurement tool for media buyers, viewer sentiment can help gauge how strongly audiences feel about the shows they watch—and whether they’re likely to continue doing so.

For example, Strata’s Fall TV Sentiment Study looks at CBS’ high-rated freshman comedy The Millers, starring Will Arnett and Margo Martindale, which attracted 11.3 million viewers for its premiere last month—among the best numbers for a new series this season. But according to Strata, only 3% of respondents to the survey named it as their favorite new show.

Compare that to NBC’s new James Spader drama The Blacklist. The series attracted a formidable 12.6 million viewers for it premiere, and 15% of survey respondents called it their favorite new show, a result that echoes the buzz the show has gotten as the season has continued.

For an advertiser, that could make The Blacklist a better bet going forward.

On Thursday nights, two other new comedies are battling it out. During premiere week, NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show took a beating from Robin Williams and CBS’ The Crazy Ones as far are Nielsen was concerned. During premiere week, The Crazy Ones drew a whopping 15.6 million viewers while Michael J. Fox’s new show drew just 7.5 million viewers. But according to Strata, 11% of the viewers it surveyed called The Michael J. Fox Show their favorite new show. Only 4% of those surveyed called The Crazy Ones their favorite new show. Not one viewer called The Crazy Ones their favorite overall show so far this season. (Getting the most mentions as favorite show was CBS’ mega comedy The Big Bang Theory, which was selected by 13% of those surveyed.)

“The sentiment survey indicates that ratings are not telling the full story. It is important for advertisers to look beyond ratings and consider sentiment and viewing habits. Advertisers might want to consider sentiment just like they take demographic data into consideration in ad planning and buying,” Mike McHugh, VP of Strata, said in a statement.

Strata conducted the national online survey of 533 TV watchers age 18 or older between Oct. 17 and 18, 2013. The respondents were 51.6% female and 48.4% male.

What Women Want To Watch
The survey also yielded some new insights on what women watch in comparison to what men watch. Women don’t seem to mind blood or zombies because the survey found half of The Walking Dead fans were women. Sons of Anarchy fans were predominantly female at 59%. The survey found that 60% of women were likely to watch a series premiere based on a friend’s suggestion, compared to 40% of men. Men were more likely to watch a series premiere for social reasons, such as office-place conversations. Of those citing social reasons as a motivation to watch a series premiere, 64% were men compared to 36% women.

Strata’s Fall TV Sentiment Survey also found that some networks and cable channels are facing brand awareness challenges among the people who watch their shows. According to the survey, only 76% of NCIS fans knew the high-rated series was on CBS. Similarly, only 73% of The Big Bang Theory fans, and 63% of How I Met Your Mother fans were able to identify the comedies as CBS shows.

ABC doesn’t have a lock on some if its top series either, with just 77% of Scandal watchers being able to identify what network airs the series. Similarly, only 56% of Modern Family fans properly identified ABC as the source for new episodes. On the other hand, 89% of fans of the new series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. knew it was an ABC program.

FX scored highest for having one of its series match up with its network identity with 94% of Sons of Anarchy fans knowing what channel the biker saga airs on.

According to Strata, CBS and NBC were tied as the networks with the best new programming. ABC came in third and Fox in fourth. AMC was the top-scoring cable network, coming in fifth overall.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.