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Cable gets its first Q

Ratings a matter of sex

NEW YORK — In its first survey designed to rank the popularity of cable TV programs, Marketing Evaluations has found gender plays a significant role in determining what’s No. 1.

Men, predictably, put sports at the top, with ESPN’s “SportsCenter” taking the crown among men 18 and over, with a Q rating of 40. Women rewarded Discovery’s “New Detectives” with the top spot and a Q rating of 52.

Among all adults, Discovery’s “New Detectives” (a 43 Q rating) is the most well-liked program on all of cable, according to the Cable Q study, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Variety.

High Q scores signify that viewers are more enthused about a show, more involved with it and pay more attention to it, explained Henry Schafer, executive VP for Marketing Evaluations.

Viewers are also more likely to be exposed to commercials in a program with a high Q rating because they watch it for a longer period of time.

‘Extremely valuable’

“The Q report helps us to make programming decisions and casting decisions,” said Betsy Frank, exec VP of research and planning for MTV Networks. “It’s extremely valuable.”

Marketing Evaluations has, for 36 years, ranked the best liked and least liked TV personalities and done research to determine the popularity of broadcast network and syndicated programs.

The research outfit waited until this year so more cable channels would have national distribution. Three dozen cable webs now have at least 60 million subscribers.

Like its other studies, Marketing Evaluation’s Cable Q report will be released four times a year. The next one will come out in September.

Others in the mix

The first report finds the top shows among adults of both sexes include VH1’s “Behind the Music” (38), The Learning Channel’s “Adrenaline Rush Hour” block (38), reruns of “ER” on TNT (38) and Food Network’s “Emeril! Live” (36).

Other shows ranking near the top include Nickelodeon’s “Little Bear” and “Rugrats” (both 35), HBO’s “The Sopranos” (36) and “Boxing After Dark” (37), and Showtime’s “Stargate SG-1” (34).

In the Cable Q report, programs are ranked in different categories, such as adults 18+, men 18+ and women 18+.

So far, a handful of cable programmers have purchased the report; a year of Cable Q costs $25,000 per network. Cable networks that buy the Cable Q report are provided with the addresses of the survey participants.

Nielsen divergence

The Cable Q rankings do not necessarily correspond to Nielsen Media Research ratings. One reason for this disparity is that Cable Q participants are allowed to give their opinions on programs they say they have watched, whether they actually have watched them or not, while the Nielsen PeopleMeter measures the program to which a TV set is tuned.

“The more specifically themed programs are going to, in effect, screen out people (who) would give them a lower score,” said David Poltrack, research chief for CBS. “They are so narrowly defined that no one is going to watch them if they’re not interested in the programming.”

This is why so many documentaries on Discovery and TLC performed very well on Cable Q.

TLC’s “Adrenaline Rush Hour” primetime block scored near the top of the Cable Q rankings (38) while the block averages roughly a 1.0 Nielsen rating in cable households.

USA’s dramas “Pacific Blue” and “La Femme Nikita” average more than a 2.0 Nielsen rating but ranked among the lower half of shows in the Cable Q ratings, scoring 20 and 22, respectively.

But some cable shows with high Nielsens also do well in the Q study. USA’s “WWF Raw,” is by far the highest-rated series on cable, according to Nielsen, and the wrestling program also ranks among the top third in the Cable Q, with a 31.

The cable programs ranking near the bottom of the Cable Q include CNBC’s “Power Lunch” (8), MTV’s “House of Style” (10) and “Beavis & Butt-head” (10), Fox Family’s “The New Addams Family” (10) and Comedy Central’s “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” (10).

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