What Women Want to Watch

As soap operas fade into extinction, syndication’s female-friendly shows are more sought-after by advertisers than ever.

“We saw a bit of a shift in this year’s upfront because there was such a dearth of ratings points in traditional daytime,” says Judy Kenny, executive VP of sales at Twentieth Television. “Advertisers were really searching for female vehicles and buying shows that they don’t typically buy. The soap operas have gone away, so packaged goods and female-targeted brands have massive needs in that daypart. Syndication in general had great demand in daytime properties.”

That means buys in CBS Television Distribution’s most female-friendly show, Oprah, which is the second-highest-rated show in syndication among women 18-49 and women 25-54. But ad buys in Oprah are expensive, and that can drive advertisers to lesser-rated shows.

“Some advertisers will buy time in five shows that are ranked 10th, for example, instead of time in a top-rated show, because that way they can get more value for their money,” says one syndication sales executive.

Another important factor that advertisers consider is efficiency: how much of a program’s audience is actually comprised of the desired demographic. For example, Warner Bros.’ Ellen, ranked fifth overall among talk shows at a 2.2 live-plus-seven-day household average, is tied for second with CTD’s Dr. Phil among women 25-54. Ellen is third among women 18-49, after Oprah and NBC Universal’s Maury.

Maury is another example of a highly efficient show: It’s the second-highest-rated talk show among women 18-34 and women 18-49, even though it’s the No. 6 show overall. The problem for shows like Maury, and its brethren Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos, is that many advertisers don’t want to be associated with those shows’ conflict-oriented content.

And some of syndication’s highest-rated shows, such as Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men and CTD’s Wheel of Fortune, rank high among women, but they also charge a high cost per thousand (CPM) due to large overall audiences and legacy pricing. Two and a Half Men, at a 5.6 live-plus-seven ratings average, is a huge hit, and it’s the third-ranked show among women 18-34 and the top show among both women 18-49 and 25-54. Still, an advertiser focused on reaching women would probably look past it to something less expensive and more targeted.

In general, sitcoms are a good place to find both young women and men, comprising two highly desirable and tough-to-reach TV audiences. “If an advertiser wants to target young women 18-34, the first place you look is sitcoms,” says Mitch Burg, president of the Syndicated Network Television Association.

The top four syndicated strips for women 18-34 are sitcoms: Twentieth’s Family Guy and NBCU’s The Office tie for first, followed by Two and a Half Men and Warner Bros.’ Friends. Oprah is fifth among that age group. As women get older, they watch less of these sorts of shows.

As Bill Carroll, VP of programming for Katz Television Group Programming, explains: “Younger viewers tend to be looking for an escape, while older viewers are looking for information.”

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Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.