Madison Avenue Counts On Football, ‘Empire’ To Lead New TV Season

Bengals Steelers Sunday Night Football Ratings

A Variety survey of three big media buyers reveals which programs will draw the viewers advertisers want most

Advertisers are betting big on football and the antics of the family behind a music company known as Empire Entertainment to bring viewers back to their screens in the 2015-2016 TV season.

Variety survey of commercial-ratings estimates culled from as many as three top media-buying firms finds that Madison Avenue will count on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” and the second season of Fox’s outsize soap opera “Empire” to draw the type of viewers a sponsor wants most: young people between 18 and 49 who don’t skip past the ads

TV executives and the general public still place emphasis on program ratings, because the measure is more easily obtained from Nielsen, but marketers have moved past such numbers. Since May 2007, sponsors and ad buyers have instead used the number of viewers between 18 and 49 who watch a particular show within three days’ of its on-air debut — and don’t skip the ads – as the basis for their TV-ad deals. The measure, known as “C3″ (or commercial ratings-plus-3), became part of negotiations between networks and their advertisers as the increasing use of DVRs eroded viewership of programs – not to mention the commercials that interrupt them.

As has been the case for some time, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” is TV’s “C3” champ. Ad buyers will likely watch this season to see if a second “Walking Dead” series slated to debut Sunday, August 23 and last into September will add to the franchise’s power. Last year, “The Walking Dead” nabbed more viewers between 18 and 49 than “SNF” in five of the eight weeks it went up against NBC’s football franchise.

Football and drama won’t be the only outsize lures come the fall. Ad buyers project CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” will be a big attraction on both Monday and Thursday nights. The CBS sitcom will debut on Monday while football airs Thursdays, and then move into the “Thursday Night Football” roost once CBS’s games run their course. Interestingly,ad buyers believe the Monday-night airing of the program will fare better than the showing on Thursday night.

NBC is expected to have the lion’s share of the season’s 15 biggest “C3” programs. Aside from “Sunday Night Football” and the pre-game show “Football Night in America,” NBC’s “C3” toppers include two different broadcasts of “The Voice” and the freshman series “Blindspot.”

Missing from the list in the fall, however, is “Blacklist” the hit series starring James Spader that was the biggest “C3” drama of last season. Also off this year’s list are CBS’ “NCIS” and Fox’s “Family Guy.”

Fox’s revival of “The X Files” is expected to generate the most commercial viewership of any new TV program, followed by NBC’s “Blindspot” and ABC’s “The Catch.”

Variety’s list of the projected top programs for “C3” in the 2014-2015 season follows below. The scheduling days for some of the programs have not been formally announced, but are based on buyer expectations (Nielsen estimated a single 18-to-49 ratings point in the 2014-2015 season was equivalent to about 1,269,800 viewers):

1) “Sunday Night Football,” NBC Sunday, 7.3

2) “Thursday Night Football,” CBS, Thursday, 5.7

3) “Empire,” Fox, Wednesday, 5.5

4) “The OT,” Fox, Sunday 4.8

5) “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, Monday 4.42

6) “Football Night In America,” NBC, Sunday 4.1

7)  “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS Thursday 3.81

8)  “Scandal,” ABC, Thursday, 3.39

9) “How to Get Away With Murder,” ABC, Thursday, 3.32

10) “Modern Family,”ABC, Wednesday, 3.23

11) “The Voice,” NBC, Monday 3.1

12) “The X-Files,” Fox, Monday 3.07

13) “Blindspot,” NBC, Monday 2.99

14) “The Catch,” ABC, Thursday, 2.97

15) “The Voice,” NBC, Tuesday 2.84

And below is Variety’s list of the projected top “C3” programs for the 2014-2015 season:

1)Sunday Night Football,” Sunday NBC 6.53

2) “NFL Thursday Night,” Thursday CBS 4.67

3) “The Big Bang Theory,” Monday CBS 3.96

4) “The Big Bang Theory,” Thursday CBS 3.62

5) “The Voice,” Monday NBC 3.23

6) “The Voice,” Tuesday NBC 3.08

7) “The Blacklist,” Monday NBC 3.02

8) “The Blacklist,” Thursday NBC 3.00

9) “Scandal” Thursday ABC 2.98

10) “The OT” (post-game football coverage) Sunday Fox 2.9

11) “Modern Family” Wednesday ABC 2.75

12) “State of Affairs,” Monday NBC 2.51

13) “Football Night in America,” second half hour, Sunday NBC 2.5

14) “NCIS,” Tuesday CBS 2.42

15) “Family Guy,” Sunday Fox 2.34

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  1. Rena Moretti says:

    I guess predictions can be fun, but why then predict the pointless, yet ageist 18-49 numbers and not the actual audience numbers which are what is sold to advertisers in the end even if each wants a different audience mix?!!

    • Brian Steinberg says:

      Hi Rena, thanks for the note. Advertisers actually do buy TV ad time based on how many people between the ages of 18 and 49 watch, not the total audience. The feeling among advertisers is that people in that age range are more open to choosing new brands and new products and not as set in their ways….

      • Rena Moretti says:

        It is hard, if not impossible, to believe that advertisers actually pay more for demographics that are not their actual public.

        I don’t disbelieve that you can find people in Madison Avenue who are as eagerly ageist as the people at the networks, but that does not change the fact that companies won’t care to overpay for demographics they don’t want and in the overall, it all washes out.

        The data is actually available and, for instance, some advertisers care more about rich people. But you won’t find that in the press because it’s not PC to say that some advertisers like rich people more.

        But, somehow, it’s totally PC to say that ALL advertisers ONLY want 18-49 people (except somehow advertisers on news shows!?!?!)

        It’s just ageism, not reality.

        On the copy-and-paste journalism that goes on, I’ll take it on faith that you didn’t do that, but 98% of what is out there today is just barely edited copies of PR releases.

        Case in point today the articles calling the TV show Scream a “hit” with “21 million viewers”… In reality it’s a flop that can’t even get a million viewers (that was not a Variety article and for the sake of being nice I won’t check the one your colleagues wrote :) ).

      • Rena Moretti says:

        Thanks for the kind response. I appreciate it.

        The fact news doesn’t use the same PR metric proves the point that it is an arbitrary (and quite ageist) metric that does not match the real world (although I’m sure some people in Madison Avenue are as eager as Hollywood to be proudly ageist).

        What has been vexing to me is that even as I understand the needs of, say, NBC to pretend they’re doing great when they’re sinking quickly, I don’t understand why the media is so eager to repeat everything that comes out of its PR department.

      • Brian Steinberg says:

        We are not eager to repeat what comes out of their PR departments. In fact, the data used in this story comes from the agencies that book advertising time and set the rates. It’s the advertisers who want these age demographics – at least for now. To be sure, digital media and their ability to target finer niches of audience is prompting gradual change, but the old system remains in place

      • Rena Moretti says:

        Sorry to disagree with you after you’ve been so nice, but you have been taken by the network PR.

        The losing networks (ie. everyone except CBS these last 15 years) love to pretend that it doesn’t matter how few viewers they have, but it does. Not every product appeals to the same age group, and the idea that older viewers are “set in their ways” is just ageism, which sadly is the one prejudice that Hollywood is still openly proud of.

        The people who make little purple pills, for instance, couldn’t care less about people below 30 (they product will be off-patent by the time they need it), but care a lot about people over 50. Similarly car manufacturers sell to people with a median age of 52. Why would they overpay for 18-49 viewers who are not the people they actually sell cars to?

      • Brian Steinberg says:

        You make some very good points and there are discussions going on today that would force TV networks to do deals based on more specific definitions of an advertiser’s target consumer, but for now, most marketers rely on a system that prizes viewers between 18 and 49 (news programming is based on 25 to 54)

  2. My top 10:
    1. Sunday Night Football, NBC
    2. Thursday Night Football, CBS
    3. Empire, FOX
    4. The OT, FOX
    5. Football Night in America, NBC
    6. The Big Bang Theory, CBS
    7. Modern Family, ABC
    8. The Voice, NBC
    9. Scandal, ABC
    10. The X-Files, FOX

    Scandal and The Voice will continue to their fall as fans lose interest as they did at the end of last season. HTGAWM is a toss up as it performed well its entire run BUT always had the scandal lead-in and by the time scandal took it’s massive fall, HTGAWM had already had its season finale so no way to know if it would have maintained its numbers (2.7+)

    • Rena Moretti says:

      HTGAWM went consistently down during its short run. I think they’ll re-launch it and it will then continue its slide.

  3. Miranda says:

    NCIS did awful this year in ratings. Demo slipped significantly.

    • Rena Moretti says:

      And yes, the “demo” ratings is essentially irrelevant, because it’s not what buyers, as a group, pay for.

    • Rena Moretti says:

      My response disappeared, so I’ll say it again: if NCIS did “awful”, how does that make all the other scripted shows, since ALL of them did worse (except Empire for a couple of episodes)?

  4. Mike M says:

    An eight year old methodology that was quite probably only remotely accurate and has never been modified, while the playing field constantly changed and still changes around it. Already solid data exists to confirm the total non live viewers has in some cases and will in all other cases eclipse live viewing in the very near future. From SD (Same Day) onwards (i.e. DVR viewing of any kind) the number that let the adds run vs hitting the FF button has likewise changed all the time. The most ridiculous part of all this is it is the younger viewers that are now the worst “offenders”, with so much more to watch and the “must have it now” built in mentality. Still, we welcome their money to fund our favorite shows, and welcome their inability to see it is buying them less and less eyeballs while they happily still pay 4% more this year at the up fronts for what is probably 10% less. Mad men indeed.

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