sales office by stacey lynn schulman

Why Broadcast Still Wins With Viewers

What broadcast networks do particularly well is build nights of television with audience flow. This is why, despite the appearance of a few bright spots in cable television, viewers are not congregating and staying with cable content throughout a night in the same way they do with broadcast. There is content there, but collectively, it’s not much of a draw. It takes more than a handful of original shows to create a destination for viewers.
By
TVNewsCheck,

One month into the launch of the new fall season, some new network brands have begun entering the viewer mix.  Or have they?  While the industry pundits debate the relative merits of each new broadcast show on the schedule, several cable premieres have not-so-quietly entered the scene.

The most notable is AMCs The Walking Dead, which premiered first in its time period and fourth for the week among all programming sign on to sign off. Cable has been airing  alongside broadcast for decades now, but only recently has begun airing originals against broadcast’s best. So how have they fared so far?  Fair.  With the exception of The Walking Dead, there were only four other original series that made the Top 100 programs last week — and only one of them was a brand new show — FX’s American Horror Story: Coven (ranked 55 among adults 25-54). Most of the new entries finished between 15th and 50th for the night among viewer choices.

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Why is this so? The success of network television has always been about the strength of the bench more than the highly promoted new shows. Sure, you need to knock one out of the park every few years — but the core schedule is the key. Advertisers know this, too. Buying new shows is like buying a lottery ticket. If the show doesn’t work, it will be replaced with something that does better. But if you’re in a winner, you ride the wave of cultural currency. So, it’s win — WIN BIG.

What broadcast networks do particularly well is build nights of television with audience flow. Throw all your Big Data on TV viewership into a giant algorithm and you’ll find that one of the strongest predictors of any show’s success is still its lead-in. And when you actually look at how program fans cluster together, again you’ll find that shows that air on the same nights are the strongest predictors of each other.  

This is why, despite the appearance of a few bright spots in cable television, viewers are not congregating and staying with cable content throughout a night in the same way they do with broadcast. There is content there, but collectively, it’s not much of a draw. It takes more than a handful of original shows to create a destination for viewers. Each program is a building block of not only the night’s entertainment, but the network’s brand identity.

So why, with infinite choice, control and personalization, do audiences still flock to broadcast television? Still watch TV in a linear progression? Still spend 40% of their time on a handful of networks?

Barry Schwartz knows why. It’s the paradox of choice. Despite the belief that more choice breeds greater freedom, Schwartz argues that infinite choice is paralyzing and actually makes us unhappy.  Which brings us back to broadcast television, a known entity with original, high-quality content every night of the week. New characters are surrounded by, familiar ones, and we settle in for the night. We know what to expect, and anticipate some entertaining surprises. And that makes us happy.

All about sales and advertising, Sales Office appears in TVNewsCheck through the cooperation of TVB, which solicits the columns from its staff and members. To read more columns in the series, click here.

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Comments (8) -

RustbeltAlumnus2 Nickname posted over 3 years ago
At least the guys in sales MUST live in denial.
formergm Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Cheerleading much?
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Typical comments from "The Sky Is Falling" posters. Fact is, she makes very good point with her facts which cannot be disproven by any of the naysayers.
Roger Thornhill Nickname posted over 3 years ago
I'm curious to know how this stacks up against online viewing. The cable nets may be withering away against the broadcast networks but could it be that VOD viewing from services like Netflix or Hulu is outpacing everyone?
Stacey Schulman posted over 3 years ago
According to Nielsen's 2Q Cross-Platform Report, Viewers 2+ spent 44 hours and 52 minutes per week with live TV, :45 minutes with video on the Internet and :15 minutes with video on mobile devices. Truth be told, the mobile number is probably not accurate because we don't have a good way to measure it yet. As for VOD on MVPDs, the greatest % of VOD viewing to an individual broadcast program this fall has been 8% within the first 3 days of air - and that was to ABC's Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in its second week. That 8% was mostly FF-disabled too -- so viewers saw all of the commercials. TVB is reporting on VOD every week with our weekly VidLytics analysis. You can get it here for free: http://www.tvb.org/measurement/VidLytics
Roger Thornhill Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Thanks for the reply, Stacey. I'll check the tvb.org site more regularly.
eagleeye1 Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Amen Stacey. Some common sense, research backed reporting. In our market, weekly cumes for local broadcast TV are as high today as there were 12 years ago. TV rocks!
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Unfortunately, the usual negative posters cannot handle it when statements are backed with facts.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 28, 2016
  • 1.
    2.8/10
  • 2.
    1.9/7
  • 3.
    1.7/6
  • 4.
    1.4/5
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.4/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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