Skip to main content

MBPT Spotlight: Networks Using Big Data To Drive Big Ratings-Simulmedia expects promotional spending to rise 5% to 10% as the new season begins | @jlafayette

This Premiere Week, broadcast networks will be relying more heavily
on big data to find ways to remind viewers to watch the new fall shows. The networks need to because the competition
for viewer attention is tougher and the reach of
on-air promo spots is shrinking. Plus, there’s a
new type of viewer to target—those who spend
most of their TV time watching
shows on a time-shifted basis.
Season premieres begin the week
of Sept. 16 on Fox; ABC, CBS
and NBC follow a week later.

Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia,
which works with four of
the five big broadcast nets, expects
promotional spending to be
up 5%-10%. And he expects an
even bigger jump in targeted spending. “We’re
up three times from last year,” Morgan says.

Simulmedia has created a publicly available
database of how promo campaigns have
performed, partly to allow clients to see how
they’re doing, but also to send a message. “This
is no longer guesswork,” Morgan says. “We
want to make sure everybody knows that this
season you’ll be able to measure promotion on
an actual [return-on-investment] basis.”

Simulmedia not only measures performance
of campaigns after they run, but it
claims it can predict how many viewers it
can recruit and how much that
will cost. “We have a lot of confidence
since we have a lot of
numbers,” says Morgan. Last
year, Simulmedia began offering
clients guarantees on how
its targeted promotions would
perform, and “we haven’t had
to give back money yet.”

Morgan says nets will do more
promos aimed at viewers who watch shows on
a delayed basis. While they watch less primetime
live, there are patterns nets can take advantage
of. “Delayed viewers tend to work
outside the home and have school-age children.
They watch early in the morning and late
at night,” he says. “You need to target them
deeper into cable because they watch a lot of
networks and tend to be more discriminating.”

Getting sampling at the beginning of the
season has never been more important, according
to Morgan. “Last year, most folks
who looked at the data after the fact realized
that the big drop in broadcast ratings
in the beginning of the season was because
there were so many new shows, not just on
broadcast but on cable too. People never got
a chance to catch up.”

The Early Bird

And if you don’t get viewers early, you’ll
never get them. The nets have itchier trigger
fingers about cancelling low-rated shows, and
viewers won’t even record shows they suspect
won’t survive a full season.

Simulmedia uses data from 50 million
households to figure out what people watch
and when. The company has partnership
deals with distributors that can insert ads and
deals with about 35 national cable networks.
Simulmedia delivers bundles of ads in the
right shows at the right time to reach viewers
interested in, say, a new crime procedural
airing at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday.