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)
Source: Nielsen Media Research. Primetime Live+SD. 05/24/12-09/02/12 (cable) v. 9/24/12 – 9/30/12 (broadcast).
Top 100 Programs
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.
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.
Source: Nielsen Media Research, Primetime Daypart Live+SD. 9/19/11 – 9/23/12 v. 9/20/10 – 9/18/11.
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.
Returning Series Summer 2011
% YOY Change
|New Series Index to Returning Series|
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
All Ad Supported
|1||Hatfields & McCoys||History||10||2.3||13||89|
|12||Sullivan and Son||TBS||10||1.0||99||355|
|13||Men at Work||TBS||10||1.0||100||359|
|17||Rizzoli & Isles||TNT||20||1.0||108||385|
|18||Franklin & Bash||TNT||10||1.0||109||387|
|21||After the Catch||Discovery||6||0.9||116||410|
|22||Drop Dead Diva||Lifetime||13||0.9||119||420|
|28||Long Island Medium||TLC||12||0.8||132||466|
|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|
|47||Here Comes Honey Boo Boo||TLC||28||0.6||171||608|
|48||Hell on Wheels||AMC||10||0.6||172||610|
Source: Nielsen Media Research. Live+SD. 05/24/12-09/02/12. * Top 100 Ranked Programs (6 telecast minimum)
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)