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Who watches daytime?

To watch daytime television these days, you first have to get through 1-800 commercials for lawyers looking for personal-injury plaintiffs, commercials for bankruptcy counselors or commercials for low-rung technical schools. Is television saying that daytime viewers are broke, uneducated or basically down on their luck?

In a way, yes, because according to some studies, it's true. According to data from Frank N. Magid Associates, 40% of the daytime viewers are in households making less than $20,000 a year, and 85% haven't graduated from a four-year college.

The downscale skew of the daytime audience poses no difficulties for advertisers looking for that market. And for large packaged-goods manufacturers and marketers, it's not a problem. Everybody buys staples.

The numbers don't surprise Tim David, director of marketing for the Newburgh, N.Y.-based law firm, Finklestein, Levine, Gittelsohn & Partners which advertises on TV and is in the process of acquiring discount-firm Jacoby & Meyers.

"The coincidental viewing of daytime TV by people who are unemployed or low-income is not acccidental. That's just the fact of life," explains David. "The guy down at the racquet club at 4 p.m., taking his executive break before he goes to Windows on the World to close a Wall Street deal-he's not watching TV at that time. He might be getting a white wine spritzer at the racquet club and look up at the TV, but I doubt it."

David's law firm heavily targets its commercials toward daytime viewers, skewing middle to low on the socioeconomic scale, because "if you are working as a dishwasher, you aren't mixing with a lot of attorneys," he says. "And if you already have an attorney, you aren't going to call my law firm.this is not rocket science. There is nothing complicated about this."

Yet the overriding reason why budget law firms and other typical daytime advertisers, including the marketplace's consumer-product giant Procter & Gamble, go after the daytime crowd is not because of their demographic profile.

Law firms do hope "you're staying at home because you're injured," says David, but "lawyers are cheap. And they are going to buy the cheapest way they can. And that's daytime television."

Tim Spengler, network TV president at advertiser rep firm Initiative Media, confirms, "A lot of advertisers are only looking for eyeballs, and are not concerned about what the makeup of the eyes are."

That could make any disgruntled daytime viewers, upset over the way advertisers might stereotypically sum them up, feel better about themselves.

For instance, Procter & Gamble, the nation's largest packaged-good advertiser, loves the daytime audience; indeed "soap opera" got its name from P&G, which used to own several of them outright. P&G hawks tons of products, like soaps, detergents, etc. "that need to reach everybody.everybody needs them," says Spengler.

Simply put, P&G goes after inexpensive daytime spots because it has to be efficient when it buys the ton of commercials.

Howard Nass, executive director of local broadcast TV at ad rep firm TN Media notes, "A lot of people who stay at home tend to have larger families with small children, so they need food, detergents, soaps, retail stores. All of those [companies] look at daytime quite favorably."

It's tricky to actually compute savings when buying spots during 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. compared to what an equivalent cost-per-thousand would cost in prime time's 8 p.m.-11 p.m.

Kevin O'Brien, vice president and general manager of Fox affiliate KTVU (TV) San Francisco agrees. "The main reason why the art schools or driving schools, which typically don't have a lot of money to burn, are here, is because the rate is efficient."

In the San Francisco market, O'Brien estimates that a spot on Ally McBeal
at 9 p.m. on Monday would net his station $20,000, but a space in a typical daytime show may just catch $500.

This whopping contrast can be attributed to the fact that the nation's TV audience is watching at night. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 1990 report, "traditional" families with a working dad, a stay-at-home mom, and one or more kids comprise just 7% of all U.S. households. Families with children in which both parents work make up 16% of all households.

Another factor in Frank Magid's demographic research is sociological. African Americans tend to view the most daytime TV, watching the equivalent of 2.79 days a week between 9 a.m. and noon and 2.81 days between noon and 3 p.m. Asian, Hispanic and other non-white constituencies clock in 2.49 and 2.29 for the same time frames. White viewers come in at 1.99 and 1.93.

This information gibes with Nielsen Media Research, which found that during November 2000, 20.3% of all the available age 18-49 African-American women (8.8 million) watched broadcast TV between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. In contrast, 13.7% of the total number of women 18-49 (62.8 million in U.S.) tuned in for that period. In other words, compared to their population numbers, African-American women overwhelm other women viewers of daytime.

Quite clearly, studios have picked up on that, "directing their programs towards the African-American component of the audience," says Rob Yarin, a senior consultant at Frank Magid. "They recognized that the frequency of viewing for the African-American audience is higher than for other segments of the audience. If you look at Columbia TriStar and Hatchett, Telepictures with Queen Latifah, Buena Vista with Iyanla
and Twentieth with Divorce Court... . They've all caught on."

Yarin, pointing out that Ricki
has twice the weekly household ratings of Queen Latifah, says syndicators and advertisers recognized that "Certainly putting someone of a certain race on as host is a signal that you're open and interested in that audience, but that alone won't give you that audience."

To some degree though, it's eyeballs-not the color of skin-that attract some daytime advertisers. Ethnicity doesn't matter.

"Not to me it doesn't," says Finklestein, Levine, Gittelsohn & Partners' David. "But it makes me wish I had more black attorneys or Hispanic attorneys, in order to make those clients feel more comfortable."

Aaron Cohen, executive vice president of broadcast TV at advertiser rep firm Horizon Media, agrees: "We sell insurance to the people who call, so I don't care what color their skin is," referring to such stalwart daytime clients as Geico insurance.

And the story is the same for high-profile advertisers such as Procter & Gamble, which like most companies, sees greater significance in the age and sex of viewers than any other factors.

"[By stressing daytime broadcast TV], Procter & Gamble knows that it can create demand for its products particularly among the younger parts of the audience," explains Frank Magid's Yarin. "Older viewers have more habits regarding brand choice, so advertisers aren't willing to invest in them to try to change their patterns."

The most dedicated daytime broadcast watchers are between the ages of 25-34 and 45-54, watching 2.35 and 2.38 days a week of TV, respectively, between 9 a.m. and noon. The audience skews slightly younger between noon and 3 p.m.-the two heaviest groups are 16-24 (2.37 days) and 25-34 (2.20 days).

Cable, on the other hand, generally attracts older viewers during the daytime. Nielsen Media Research's November 2000 information reports that 32.9% of the audience for Lifetime (which Yarin says is responsible for luring away some of daytime TV's typical audience) from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. is 50-plus. In contrast, 24.3% of all broadcast viewers are in that same age demographic.

Granted, Lifetime also has a larger percentage of women 18-49 (37.2%) than broadcasting (24.3%) for that bracket, but its absolute numbers don't compare. No current program on Lifetime, day or night, nears the total household ratings achieved by daytime signatures like Oprah
or Live with Regis.

For instance, Lifetime's Strong Medicine, last year's No. 1 drama on basic cable according to Nielsen Media Research, averaged just a 1.9, which is considered weak even by syndication standards.

"More people watch [daytime broadcast TV] than all the cable networks combined," says Bill Carroll, programming chief for Katz Television. "Syndication and network TV-they are still in the big leagues."

So, even if daytime advertisers are influenced by age and cost-more so than by income and race-it doesn't erase the fact that there does seem to be an abundance of not-so-upscale businesses promoting their wares on daytime TV. And that can't be easy on station revenues.

"I think there are a lot of bottom-feeding clients that will buy daytime for efficiency purposes. They'll get good deals," says one Chiat Day ad executive, who directs his automobile clients towards the evening daypart. "We're pushing products that go anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, so we need to hit audiences that we know are going to spend that kind of money. And we'll pay more to get that."

And though it may not always seem so, there are pockets of syndication that aren't lowbrow.

"For example, we have Martha Stewart
and she is a very upscale kind of thing," says Lou Verruto, general manager of WIVB-TV Buffalo, N.Y., who points out the "dangers of painting all daytime TV with the same brush."

He adds: "The court shows, though, by their very nature have a very mass appeal. This year, we're running Judge Hatchett
and Curtis Court
and the numbers are spectacular."

Katz TV's Carroll makes the same argument. "I would point out that Oprah
and Jerry Springer
coexist very well together,' he says.