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

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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