MBPT Spotlight: Perception Aside, Even Without Sports a Lot of Men Watch Broadcast Primetime

The awarding this week of a new eight game Thursday night NFL package to CBS beginning this fall could bring in 13 million men to CBS primetime. The network in the fourth quarter was already drawing 24 million men across its five primetime shows on that night. So what’s behind the move to become even more male?

The simple answer is that many marketers are keen to target hard-to-reach men in the female-skewing primetime marketplace, so the additional opportunities will be welcome. In fact, CBS will most likely move at least a few of its current Thursday night hit series to other nights in time periods where men are currently more sparse.

This jockeying aside, the fact is that male viewers in broadcast primetime, while fewer in number than females, still produce a weekly total that is higher than conventional wisdom might suggest. Overall, for all fourth quarter programming – regularly scheduled series, repeats, sports and specials – 55% of the broadcast primetime audience was female and 45% was male. However , fourth quarter not only contained primetime football on NBC, but also college football on Fox and ABC, as well as the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series on Fox. Strip out the sports and the male audience was much smaller.

In the recent fourth quarter, NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecasts averaged about 13.9 million men and 7.5 million women. A breakdown of those male viewers consisted of 6.5 million men in the 18-49 demo, 6.8 million men in the 25-54 demo, and 4.9 million men 55-plus. CBS’s overall Thursday Night Football viewership should draw similar demographics.

While NBC, clearly aided by SNF, drew the most men, averaging 4.3 million per night, CBS, with no major primetime sports, was next with 3.9 million, followed by Fox with 3.1 million and ABC with 2.5 million. When you total the men up, the 13.8 million doesn’t seem way less than the 16.6 million women.

On a percentage of total audience basis, however, Fox was the only network in fourth quarter that had more male viewers than female. That was not only because of sports, but also because of its Sunday animation block, which skews heavily younger male. Fox in fourth quarter drew 54% men to its primetime programming, while NBC drew 49%, CBS 43% and ABC 37%. Yes, ABC is the most female skewing network by a considerable margin when you measure by percentage of total audience. However, measuring by female viewers, ABC (4.2 million female viewers) is third behind CBS (5.1 million females) and NBC (4.5 million female viewers). Fox averaged 2.8 million female viewers.

CBS scheduling a repeat episode of its hit drama NCIS at 10 p.m. on Sunday night, timed to air as the Super Bowl was ending, seems to have been done by design. After airing repeats of the more female-skewing The Good Wife and The Mentalist between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., CBS went to a heavier male audience draw with NCIS.

NCIS was not only the most-watched drama on television in the fourth quarter, averaging 18.8 million viewers in its regular Tuesday night at 8 time period this season, but it also averaged 8 million male viewers each week, making it the most male-viewed show on broadcast TV primetime for non-sports programming. So advertisers looking to reach men after the Super Bowl got a chance if they were in NCIS.

It’s In the Script

While sports brings more men to the broadcast networks, many of the networks’ primetime scripted series also draw a solid number of them. Although no broadcast primetime series draws more men than women except for Fox’s animation block, especially among younger men.

In fourth quarter, Family Guy on Fox averaged 2.9 million men vs. 2 million women, with a median age audience of 33. Bob’s Burgers averaged 2.4 million men vs. 1.8 million women, with a median age of 34. American Dad also averaged 2.4 million men vs. 1.7 million women, with a median age of 33. The Simpsons was the only series in the block to draw more women than men, averaging 2.5 million men vs. 3.3 million women, with a median age of 36.

Breaking it down further, The Simpsons averaged 2 million men 18-49 per episode, Family Guy averaged 1.8 million in the demo, American Dad earned 1.5 million while Bob’s Burgers drew 1.4 million men 18-49.

The Fox series that drew the most men in the fourth quarter was drama Almost Human, averaging 3 million per episode, followed by Bones with 2.9 million men, and Sleepy Hollow with 2.8 million men. Supposedly male-skewing Fox sitcoms Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine drew only 1.1 million men and 1.7 million, respectively. In fact, more female-skewing New Girl and Glee both drew more men each episode, 1.5 million and 1.3 million, respectively, than Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

CBS Rates With Men

While Fox is perceived to be a more male-skewing network, CBS has more primetime series with more male viewers than Fox, and with a higher percentage of men within many of those shows. Following NCIS with the most male viewers on CBS is its popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which averages 9 million female viewers, but also draws 7.4 million men. Next is the NCIS spin-off series NCIS: Los Angeles with 6.3 million men. Person of Interest averages 5.6 million men, and Blue Bloods averages 4.5 million male viewers, although 3.2 million of those are 55-plus.

Leading out of The Big Bang Theory on Thursday nights, sitcom The Millers draws about 4.4 million male viewers, while sitcom The Crazy Ones, leading out of The Millers averages 4.1 million men, followed by Two and a Half Men, which averages 4.2 million men. So the audience flow for CBS among men on Thursday nights is pretty consistent. At 10 p.m., drama Elementary averages 3.9 million men.

Other CBS series getting solid male viewing are Criminal Minds (4 million men) and CSI (3.7 million). Interestingly, the short-lived CBS freshman comedy We Are Men, which was canceled after only a few episodes earlier this season, averaged only 2.7 million men. And among the reasons why CBS freshman drama Hostages might have failed—it drew only 2 million men in a time period where NBC’s freshman drama The Blacklist was averaging 4.6 million.

‘Blacklist’ Tops the List

NBC’s The Blacklist is the most-watched non-sports series among men, followed by Chicago Fire (2.7 million), Revolution (2.5 million), Grimm (2.4 million) and Law & Order: SVU (2.3 million). The rest of its series draw under 2 million men per episode, so it will be interesting to see how NBC’s overall male numbers change moving forward in these days without primetime football to lean on.

ABC in fourth quarter was the most female skewing network in primetime. Its highest-rated sitcom, Modern Family drew the largest male audience, averaging 3.8 million men per week. The most male skewing drama was its freshman series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which averaged 3.6 million men per episode. S.H.I.E.L.D. also skewed young male, with only 1.2 million of its male audience being 55-plus. Dancing With the Stars also averaged 3.6 million men per telecast, but 2.4 million of them were 55-plus.

Monday ABC drama Castle averaged 3.2 million male viewers, while sitcom The Middle drew 3.1 million men. ABC’s Saturday night college football telecasts in fourth quarter averaged 3.6 million men.

For the most part, marketers are buying broadcast primetime for a combined mass audience of both men and women in the 18-49 demo and, in some instances, for the 25-54 demo. They know they are going to get a higher percentage of female viewers than male in the packages they buy, but for marketers trying to also reach men, the viewer numbers show that there are still millions of men tuning into broadcast primetime shows.

CBS this fall is going to offer marketers a lot more of those men with the addition of its eight weeks of Thursday night NFL telecasts, and those marketers already buying NBC’s SNF are going to get a little more leverage during the upfront buying season. It’s always nice for the ad buyer side when another seller comes in to create an alternative during negotiations.