Seasons of Premieres: Fall Broadcast and Summer Cable

Fall Broadcast

The new Fall Television Season is off with a bang! Top-rated favorites have returned and newcomers are already inspiring viewers. Programs that deliver large audiences are a magnet for advertisers who need to quickly meet their reach and frequency goals and broadcast television delivers more of these shows than any other medium.

Strength in Numbers (Even When Time-Shifted)
A week into the new primetime season, the biggest story that has emerged has been about the burgeoning time-shifted audience. TVB took a special look at this phenomenon and put it in a perspective that positions the local broadcast industry for competitive success. While cable original series bring a variety of quality and choice to an ever-fragmenting television audience, they fall short of delivering viewers at scale. In fact, looking at the new 2012/13 broadcast television premieres, the same-day, time-shifted portion of the audience to broadcast originals outpaced the average audience levels of cable’s brightest summer stars.

Broadcast’s Same-Day, Time-Shifted Audience Outshines Cable’s Original Stars
Fall 2012 Premiere Week v. Summer 2012 Cable Original Series
Live+SD A25-54 (000)

Top Advertising Brand Affinities – VEGAS (TV Show)
Source: Nielsen Media Research. Primetime Live+SD. 05/24/12-09/02/12 (cable) v. 9/24/12 – 9/30/12 (broadcast).

Highlights of Broadcast Television’s first full week of the 2012/13 Season include:

  • Nationally, Broadcast took 94 of the top 100 Adult 25-54 Prime programs in Week 1.
  • NFL Football took the top 4 spots, with NBC Sunday Night Football #1 with a 9.8 A25-54 rating. Modern Family rounded out the top 5 programs.
  • Cable's highest-rated show, NFL Regular Season on ESPN, was #4 delivering a 7.0 RA25-54. Their second highest-rated show came in at #31, NFL Regular Season on NFLN, delivering a 3.7 RA25-54.

 

National Primetime
Broadcast vs. Cable GRPs A25-54

Top 100 Programs
Broadcast TV = 297.4 GRPs
Cable Nets = 19.9 GRPs

National Weekly Top 10
Primetime RA 25-54

NBC Sunday Night Football 9.8
FOX NFL Sunday-National 9.4
Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick 7.4
NFL Regular Season on ESPN 7.0
Modern Family 6.7
The Big Bang Theory 6.3
CBS NFL Single 6.1
FOX NFL Sunday-Regional 5.8
NCIS 5.7
NBC NFL Sunday Post Game 5.4

Source: The Nielsen Company, Live + Same Day estimates, Top 10 programs = programming 5 min. or more. * S/O-S/O = Sign-On to Sign-Off.

As we get further into Broadcast’s 2012/13 Fall Season, TVB will be providing more in-depth analyses of network primetime performance.

Summer Cable

The 2011/12 television season came to a close last month showing the Advertiser Supported Cable sector declining among Households, Persons 2+ and A25-54. Admittedly, the Summer Olympic Games on NBC provided formidable competition (although coverage was available on multiple cable networks as well), but the Games lasted only two weeks of the summer season and, in fact, average ad- supported cable ratings were down for the regular season as well.

% Change in Average Primetime Impressions vs. Prior Year

% Change in Average Primetime Impressions vs. Prior Year
Source: Nielsen Media Research, Primetime Daypart Live+SD. 9/19/11 – 9/23/12 v. 9/20/10 – 9/18/11.

Cable Performance: New and Returning Series

Given that summer is Ad Supported Cable’s premiere season, TVB has taken a look at the relative strength of cable’s original programming in the same way that broadcasters are typically analyzed – across new and returning series. For the broadest appealing cable networks, returning series declined among Adults 25-54 versus last summer and new series often didn’t perform at the same level as returning favorites. This helps to explain the declines that cable’s mature entertainment networks experienced this summer.

Cable
Network
Returning Series Summer 2011
A25-54 (000)
Returning Series
Summer 2012
A25-54 (000)
Summer
Returning Series
% YOY Change
2012
New Series
A25-54 (000)
New Series Index to Returning Series
A&E 781 771 -1% 691 90
AMC 729 721 -1% 733 102
Discovery 686 624 -9% 545 87
History 1179 955 -19% 1229 129
Lifetime 778 748 -4% 405 54
TBS 657 620 -6% 764 123
TNT 1475 1279 -13% 1198 94
USA 1851 1431 -23% 767 54

Source: Nielsen Media Research. Live+SD. 05/24/2012-09/23/2012 vs. 5/26/11-9/18/11. See appendix for complete list of programs analyzed.

Summer is Cable’s Premiere Season

Cable networks have moved swiftly over the past several years to introduce original series at a time when broadcast is presumed to be primarily in repeats. Despite the ongoing summer rhetoric surrounding cable’s original season, broadcast television remains the dominant choice for viewers. TVB looked at this year’s summer season for all primetime programming with and without sports and found that across the Top 100 telecasts, broadcast programming delivered 94% of this summer’s primetime GRPs. High-rated Summer Olympic programming took 18 of the Top 23 ranked programs of the summer, but was inconsequential in determining broadcast’s dominant delivery. When all sports programming was excluded (including Olympic Games) from the Top 100 program rankings, broadcast not only maintained its dominance but increased its share of GRPs to 96%.

Summer is Cable’s Premiere Season
Source: Nielsen Media Research, Primetime Live+SD. 05/24/12 – 09/02/12

We’ve seen many flavors of Top Cable Program rankers this summer touting the merits of cable’s originals – mostly benchmarked against other cable offerings. Viewers, however, watch television, not categories of television distribution. So how did the 2012 cable season’s crop of originals perform in the context of the total television audience? The brightest light in the cable line-up came from FX’s Sons of Anarchy (2.7 A25-54 Rtg) which squeaked into the Summer ranker at #69 with a September 11th debut. The only other cable original to crack the Top 100 was History’s mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys (2.3 A25-54 Rtg). The Kevin Costner starrer ranked at #89 among all telecasts. When we excluded sports programming from the ranker, these two cable stand-outs jumped to rank #31 and #46, respectively.

For a better perspective on the strength of original cable series programming, we re-ranked the summer telecast list, limiting it to only programs of six or more episodes and eliminating all sports content. TVB compared the performance of the Top 50 cable originals this summer to broadcast series repeats. Looking at a frequency distribution of series and their rankings, it becomes clear that summer broadcast repeats still outperform heavily marketed, new cable originals. Broadcast repeats predominantly ranked in the Top 100, whereas cable originals predominantly occupied the bottom half of the Top 200.

Broadcast Repeats v. Cable Originals

# of Series Ranked Within Top 200 Programs
Summer Season 2012

Broadcast Repeats v. Cable Originals
Source: Nielsen Media Research, Primetime Live+SD. 05/24/12 – 09/23/12. 6+ telecast qualifier, excludes sports. Note that Cable Originals include encore telecasts as reported by Nielsen.

Cable Original Rankings

Below are the rankings for the Top 50 Cable Originals of the 2012 Summer Season. Among all telecasts, cable originals landed one position in the Top 100, two positions in the Top 200, seven positions in the Top 300, 18 positions in the Top 400 and 32 positions in the Top 500. On a total telecast basis, the 50th ranked cable original series placed 614th among all telecasts in the summer season.

Top 50 Cable Originals: Summer Primetime Season 2012 (Adults 25-54)
6+ Telecasts (excludes sports programming)

   All Ad Supported   
    Television Rankings 
  Cable
Original
Rank
    Cable Program     Network   #
Telecasts
  A25-54
Rating
A25-54
Rank
6+ T/C
No Sports
A25-54
Rank All
Telecasts
1 Hatfields & McCoys History 10 2.3 13 89
2 Falling Skies TNT 9 1.6 42 179
3 Suits USA 10 1.4 66 242
4 Burn Notice USA 11 1.4 67 243
5 Dallas TNT 10 1.3 78 274
6 Breaking Bad AMC 8 1.3 79 277
7 Royal Pains USA 14 1.2 82 293
8 White Collar USA 10 1.1 90 317
9 Covert Affairs USA 10 1.1 95 333
10 Perception TNT 10 1.1 96 338
11 The Closer TNT 12 1.0 98 354
12 Sullivan and Son TBS 10 1.0 99 355
13 Men at Work TBS 10 1.0 100 359
14 Army Wives Lifetime 12 1.0 103 369
15 Swamp People History 24 1.0 105 381
16 The Glades A&E 10 1.0 107 384
17 Rizzoli & Isles TNT 20 1.0 108 385
18 Franklin & Bash TNT 10 1.0 109 387
19 Counting Cars History 23 1.0 112 402
20 Major Crimes TNT 11 0.9 114 407
21 After the Catch Discovery 6 0.9 116 410
22 Drop Dead Diva Lifetime 13 0.9 119 420
23 Mountain Men History 21 0.9 123 436
24 Necessary Roughness USA 11 0.9 124 440
25 Anger Management FX 29 0.8 125 445
26 Pawn Stars History 240 0.8 128 453
27 Leverage TNT 12 0.8 129 455
28 Long Island Medium TLC 12 0.8 132 466
29 Deadliest Catch Discovery 25 0.8 134 475
30 Longmire A&E 17 0.8 135 476
31 American Pickers History 69 0.8 138 496
32 American Hoggers A&E 12 0.8 139 497
33 Breaking Amish TLC 7 0.8 140 502
34 Warehouse 13 Syfy 8 0.7 146 535
35 Storage Wars A&E 270 0.7 147 538
36 American Restoration History 18 0.7 149 544
37 Top Gear History 7 0.7 150 547
38 American Chopper Discovery 6 0.7 152 552
39 Sister Wives TLC 15 0.7 153 554
40 Food Network Star Food 14 0.7 154 555
41 Ice Road Truckers History 33 0.7 155 556
42 For Better or Worse TBS 26 0.7 156 563
43 Storage Wars Texas A&E 34 0.7 158 566
44 Common Law USA 10 0.7 160 575
45 Restaurant Stakeout Food 7 0.7 161 577
46 Time Machine History 25 0.7 162 582
47 Here Comes Honey Boo Boo TLC 28 0.6 171 608
48 Hell on Wheels AMC 10 0.6 172 610
49 Picked Off History 7 0.6 173 612
50 Intervention A&E 9 0.6 175 614

Source: Nielsen Media Research. Live+SD. 05/24/12-09/02/12. * Top 100 Ranked Programs (6 telecast minimum)

Primetime Still Belongs to Broadcast

Whether Summer or Fall, the top-rated shows in television are predominantly and consistently on broadcast. Ad Supported Cable networks continue to expand original summer series offerings, and although viewers are sampling these new shows throughout the summer, many returning cable series are declining year-to-year and only a handful of networks are introducing new series that perform as strongly as returning favorites. Even when compared to broadcast repeats, highly marketed, cable original series have difficulty breaking into the Top 100 telecast choices among viewers.

Now as the new primetime season gets underway, we have new evidence of how the height and hype of primetime cable pales in comparison to the reality of broadcast television’s scale. The average audience of cable’s highest rated originals is barely equivalent to the same-day, time-shifted audience of broadcast’s fall premieres.

TVB will continue to monitor the new primetime season and report on trends as they emerge.

Click here for White Paper which includes Appendix - Cable Summer Originals (Live+SD)

 
 
 

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