What Matters More: Total Viewers, or 18-49 Rating?

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  • Alijah Purdy
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    #303915

    Throughout recent years, there have been many shows with great total viewership numbers, but low 18-49 adult ratings on the big 4 networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX). There have also been shows with low total viewership numbers, but high 18-49 ratings. In both cases, some shows have been cancelled, while some shows have been renewed. So, my question is, which matters more in the end?

    Try to provide examples with each case.

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    Riley
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    #303917

    The 18-49 demographic is infinitely more important because total viewers do not matter at all.

    Take Harry’s Law for example: it was the most-watched scripted show on NBC, but the lowest-rated.

    Advertisements are sold based on C3 ratings.  These indicate the number of people within that key demographic that watched the commercials during a show.  These are not the same as the Live + SD 18-49 numbers that are widely reported, but they have been historically proportional.

    Middle-aged people and senior citizens generally have more time and
    watch much more television.  So it does not really matter if they watch
    something because in the eyes of the advertisers, they are not hard to
    reach.  There is no unique value proposition from getting them. 
    Additionally, there is a general feeling that those people are less
    likely to switch brands anyway.

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    sweetemmyfan
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    #303918

    In my opinion, it really depends on the show. There are cases that can be made to say that total viewership matters, and there can be cases that say that 18-49 ratings matter.

    The biggest case in recent years to show that 18-49 adult ratings matter more is of course Harry’s Law. In it’s second, and ultimate final, season, it was getting great total viewership numbers, averaging 8 – 9 million viewers per episode. It was NBC’s top rated and most watched drama. However, the show also had VERY low 18-49 adult ratings, often getting anywhere from 0.7 – 1.2 ratings share. Ultimately, NBC decided that the 18-49 ratings share mattered more, and so they cancelled the show (which obviously didn’t make Kathy Bates happy).

    However, over at CBS, often shows with great viewership but mediocore 18-49 ratings seem to get renewed. The Good Wife is a perfect example of this. The Good Wife has always received great viewership. Last season, it’s season low was 8.35 million viewers (it only received less than 9 million viewers four times), and its season high was 10.14 million viewers (only received more than 10 million viewers three times). However, the show in recent years (most notably last season) hasn’t received great 18-49 ratings. Last week’s season premiere only received a 1.5 18-49 adult ratings, despite getting 9.15 million viewers. Yet, The Good Wife was renewed.

    I know that people will point to my example of The Good Wife and say other factors contributed to it’s renewal (critical acclaim, syndication, etc.). But the fact is for the last 2 years, The Good Wife has been “On the Bubble” consistently. (often with The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-O).

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    Riley
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    #303919

    Ugh, posts like the above sadden me.

    You cannot just say that The Good Wife has low ratings in absolute terms.  Its ratings ultimately proved to be high enough relative to how the rest of CBS was doing.  More importantly, this is not an exact science and there are things that the general public cannot account for, like production costs.  Syndication is extra important.  Ultimately, The Good Wife has been “on the bubble”.  It has not been a certain cancellation and suddenly renewed; it has been on the line.

    Read TV by the Numbers.  They chart a show’s success throughout the season, compared to the network’s overall success.  Also, check out Advertising Age, where you can see how much a show charges ad spots for.  Even compare shows that have similar viewerships, but different demographic ratings.

    Admittedly, it has gotten harder to predict cancellation since TV by the Numbers began just a few years ago.  The big four are sinking, so it is less clear-cut what will be renewed because if every show’s ratings suck, how much does it matter if one show rates one percent than another if both are terrible?

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    David Buchanan
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    #303920

    TV by the Numbers is a terrific resource, for both accumulating the overnight numbers and analyzing them in the scope of the entire season. I have found that they are far too rigid, i.e. attached to their formula, in their treatment of the season-long numbers, though. There are many shows that they deem “certain to be canceled” based on their numbers, yet they do not consider any other external factors. I know it is not entirely feasible for them to do so, and that they make their determinations based on numbers alone, but their failure to accommodate for things such as syndication, critical acclaim, awards magnet, etc. make their predictions flat-out wrong. Not only are they often incorrect, but they usually belligerent about their opinion, claiming that they cannot be wrong. It was offputting enough for me to stop commenting on their articles entirely.

    I guess my overall point would be: put value in TV by the Numbers for their reporting ability, but do not put complete trust their analysis, and feel free to challenge their opinions.

    Formerly known in the forums as PianoMann.

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    Riley
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    #303921

    I have noticed that they have accounted for syndication in the last year.

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    Lord Freddy Blackfyre
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    #303922

    Another reason why cable is better for good shows, I’d hope that something like Hannibal were in HBO, Cinemax, Starz or Showtime.

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    adamunc
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    #303923

    One factor can be whether an network has any ownership in a show or not. If a show has three seasons and is owned in part or wholly by a network, it will generally get a fourth season despite ratings, as evidenced this season by Hawaii Five-0 and Raising Hope. Then sometimes shows that are still doing fairly well will be cancelled because the cast/production cost has gotten too high, which is probably what happened to Burn Notice.

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    David Buchanan
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    #303924

    I have noticed that they have accounted for syndication in the last year.

    That’s interesting, and an improvement. Do you know if they are including the syndication effect in their aggregate score, or are they just including it in the text / description of their analysis?

    Formerly known in the forums as PianoMann.

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    Anonymous
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    #303925

    It seems like low-rated 3rd season shows get 4th seasons for purposes of syndication even if they’re not in-house productions.

    A (possibly lying) report showed that there are cases where there can be two shows with the same 18-49 rating, and the one with more viewers will get fewer ad dollars. Not because 50+ year olds are actually a detriment, but because that usually means that the higher-viewed show is more concentrated in the 40somethings than the 20somethings. And even within 18-49, being in the lower half is more valuable.

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    Beau S.
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    #303926

    18-49. If a show has high viewership but a lower share of 18-49 (often the target demographic) it will be at higher risk for cancellation.

    I’ve mentioned before how I think the Nielsen system is obsolete and ridiculous, so I won’t get into that. It does emphasize the importance of target demographics though and how they are favored over total viewership, which is important in the marketing world. 

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    CanadianFan
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    #303927

    [quote=”thedemonhog”]I have noticed that they have accounted for syndication in the last year.

    That’s interesting, and an improvement. Do you know if they are including the syndication effect in their aggregate score, or are they just including it in the text / description of their analysis?[/quote]

    They are using two different guys to predict whether shows are getting cancelled now. They have a rigid prediction feature with three discrete categories and then their regular cancellation index. From reading their analysis, it seems like they are taking syndication into account. 

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    Alijah Purdy
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    #303928

    [quote=”PianoMann”][quote=”thedemonhog”]I have noticed that they have accounted for syndication in the last year.

    That’s interesting, and an improvement. Do you know if they are including the syndication effect in their aggregate score, or are they just including it in the text / description of their analysis?[/quote]

    They are using two different guys to predict whether shows are getting cancelled now. They have a rigid prediction feature with three discrete categories and then their regular cancellation index. From reading their analysis, it seems like they are taking syndication into account. [/quote]

    I agree. I go to TV By the Numbers everyday to look at the ratings for the previous night, and last year I know they did take into consideration Syndication, as they have for the last 2 years for every show in its third season.

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