Watch Ratings and Demos

To the Editor:

Tom Umstead's "Channel Surfing" column (Multichannel Newsday
daily fax, March 28) titled "A Basic-Cable Numbers Debate: Ratings or Demos," creates what appears to be a need for a choice where none exists. To my mind, the "debate" is not an either-or discussion; it's really about what is the most complete and accurate picture of performance: household ratings alone vs. household ratings and demographics.

I am not alone in this view. Just over one month ago (Multichannel News
supplement, Feb. 25), Mr. Umstead's article, "The Most Desirable Demo — Cable Networks Court the 18-49 year-old Viewer," featured numerous network and industry executives discussing the value of demos to their businesses.

The demo discussed most often is adults 18 to 49. In both of Mr. Umstead's articles, Lifetime's Tim Brooks offered that the 18-to-49 demo comprises only 25 percent to 30 percent of the advertising business. However, the 18-to-49 group is the most widely used demo for buying advertising and, including buys made against men 18-49 or women 18-49, that 30 percent figure is much closer to 60 percent. While any one cable network might argue that they have a different target, the fact remains that well over half the ad dollars spent are against viewers between the ages of 18 and 49.

There is a place for universe household ratings as a stand-alone tool. One example is that they allow cable operators some perspective in identifying the fledgling networks that they don't carry that may have appeal. But MSOs and local systems also sell advertising, and demos are among the top tools used to demonstrate value to local advertisers.

To borrow Mr. Umstead's baseball analogy, looking at household ratings alone is exactly like determining a player's value by looking only at "home runs hit within his own ballpark." The "player's overall value as a home-run hitter is best determined by how his homer total stacks up against the best hitters in the league."

Home runs are only one statistic. Overall value is simply not assessed by looking at only part of the picture. Household ratings provide only part of the picture.

We need both household ratings and demos to determine which networks best deliver value to affiliates and advertisers. Ratings and demos are routinely reported by other publications for broadcast and for cable. Your readers deserve no less.

Jack Wakshlag

Chief Research Officer

Turner Broadcasting

System Inc.