The next TV season is weeks away, but advertisers have already crowned a few winners.
A Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections culled from four top ad-buying firms shows marketers expect NBC to handily have the biggest bumper crop of Sunday-night viewers in the demo who don’t skip ads, while CBS is seen leading Thursday nights by the same measure. Sundays and Thursdays are typically the nights of the week in which sponsors invest most heavily.
While overnight program ratings continue to get the lion’s share of attention in the TV business, the hard, cold fact is advertisers care less about them. Since 2007, sponsors have paid for TV ads based on the number of people between the ages of 18 and 49 who actually watch the ads that interrupt the shows, rather than the programs themselves.
TV networks agreed to commercial ratings due to severe effects the rise of the digital video recorder, which allows viewers to watch programs hours or days after they originally air and to skip past the commercials, wreaked havoc on traditional viewing patterns. The ratings, known as “C3,” because the count views of ads as many as three days after the program initially airs, are far more complex than traditional audience measures and illustrate how difficult it has become for advertisers to determine who is really watching their promotions for sneakers, soap and mobile tablets.
Loopholes abound, to be sure. Determining a winner among the five English-speaking broadcast networks for the first six nights of the week is an unscientific process (Saturday’s ratings are generally so low it’s barely worth examining).
The “leader” each night is simply the network that has the most “C3” ratings points among viewers between 18 and 49 – meaning that networks with a stack of sitcoms on a particular night may have “more” ratings to offer simply because there’s more content on the air and a definitive shift in numbers every 30 minutes. Advertisers may use more specific data when making their choices – looking at individual programs rather than a single night’s lineup – so the data offered here is directional in nature and should not be taken as gospel.
Below, a look at how advertisers think each night of the week is shaping up for the fall season:
Football rules the night. NBC’s two-hours of “Football Night in America” couple with “Sunday Night Football” make it the champ on what has become perhaps TV’s most competitive night. Of course, once the NFL season ends, so too does the Peacock’s hold on the night (late-season fare like “American Dream Builders” and “Crisis” won’t match the power of the pigskin).
Fox comes in second with its post-NFL coverage along with young-guy animated staples like “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.” ABC’s tension-filled dramas – what else would you call dramas with titles like “Revenge” and “Betrayal”? – will boost it to third on the night, according to the Variety survey.
CBS, loaded with sassy sitcoms that appeal to a younger viewer, will carry the night in terms of total C3, but NBC’s two Monday-night offerings will in fact draw more viewers.. The Eye will launch the last season of “How I Met Your Mother” and pair it with frosh comedy ”We Are Men” in the 8 p.m. hour while pairing “2 Broke Girls” with new entry “Mom” at 9 p.m., then finishing the night with “Hostages.” The Peacock, meanwhile, has both “The Voice” and frosh drama “The Blacklist” – both seen among the ten biggest generators of “C3” this fall, according to the Variety survey
NBC looks to carry the night in the fall, thanks again to “The Voice,” according to the survey. But when the show is not on the air and “The Biggest Loser” fills the space, look for CBS’s night of broad-skewing dramas – “NCIS,” “NCIS: LA” and “Person of Interest” – to offer the most commercial ratings.
ABC’s night of comedy – veteran “The Middle” at 8 p.m., frosh sitcom “Back In The Game” at 8:30, hit “Modern Family” at 9 and potential success “Super Fun Night” at 9:30 – are expected to buoy the Walt Disney network to a C3 win. Fox’s “The X Factor” will not carry the night in the fall, according to the Variety survey, but the return of “American Idol” in 2014 will make the 21st Century Fox property more competitive. Meantime, look for CBS’s venerable “Survivor,” “Criminal Minds” and “CSI” to fare well.
CBS’s sitcoms give it dominance on this night of the week that is typically viewed as crucial by movie studios hoping to goose the Friday-night opening of a film or a retailer trying to spread the word about a holiday sale. The network’s “The Big Bang Theory” is not only the scripted program with the highest projected C3 ratings, but is seen feeding audience into “The Millers” at 8:30 p.m. Frosh Robin Williams starrer “The Crazy Ones” follows at 9, with veteran “Two and a Half Men” and sophomore drama “Elementary” at 10.Worth noting: Fox’s “X Factor” and “American Idol” actually generate more C3 individually than many of the CBS programs taken separately.
ABC’s comedy lineup will give it an edge on one of the least-viewed nights of the week for the broadcast networks (only Saturday usually draws fewer eyeballs). The Disney outlet features a comedy block at 8 p.m., “Shark Tank” at 9 p.m. and “20./20” at 10. On an individual basis, CBS’s “Undercover Boss” and “Hawaii Five-0” beat many of the ABC shows’ specific numbers, as does NBC’s “Grimm.”