Friday, February 04, 2011

How To Look at TV Ratings Today; Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 7, 2011)

The way we look at TV ratings has certainly changed over the years. Never mind that TV ratings have fallen in the last 4-5 years, most probably because of DVR (and other ways to watch your shows), but it's not all about top 20 or total viewers anymore--and it hasn't been for years now. The network executives and advertisers look at 18-49 ratings and that's mainly about it (yes 18-34 is also looked at, but that's inside the 18-49 range). That's what pays the bills and advertisers want shows that skew in that demo. Sure high total viewers is good as well, but if your 18-49 rating is not as high, it really doesn't matter in this business.
We do weekly TV ratings blogs every Sunday, but I don't go in depth on what really is working and what isn't. So I have decided to tell you today how the ratings game works using many examples. First, if a show has a good percentage of its audience inside the 18-49 proportion, it will always be looked at. Why? Because there is more of a chance that a person in the 18-49 year range will be watching the ad during that show. For example, this Wednesday's Cougar Town did a 3.9 overall household rating (6.51 million). That may not sound like it is a big hit, but its 18-49 rating was good at a 2.7 rating. The 18-49 proportion to its overall rating is about 69%, which is very good and what network executives aim for and the advertisers want. Generally, I think anything about 45% or more in the 18-49 range is acceptable. So looking at this past Wednesday's third special airing of Blue Bloods on CBS, it did a good 7.1 household rating, but its 18-49 rating was only a 1.6. That is only about 22% in the 18-49 proportion. That is not good. Sure, its overall numbers may be good but that doesn't pay the bills. This rating might be "acceptable" for a Friday or Saturday, where ratings are lower, but on a weeknight (Sun-Thurs), this is not acceptable. Even on a Friday it would be borderline, as we saw similar series like this canceled over the years (Close to Home, Women's Murder Club).
Next, if you skew old but still do an acceptable 18-49 rating, then you'll be fine as well. A perfect example of this is NCIS. The series does over 20 million viewers, but its overall 18-49 rating is still decent. This past Tuesday, NCIS did a mammoth 13.2 HH rating. The 18-49 rating was a great 4.6 as well. However, that only comes out to about 35% in the 18-49 proportion. While that is low, it still matters that its overall 18-49 rating was good. So in some cases like this, the skew doesn't matter since its overall 18-49 rating is high. However, while its overall 18-49 rating is fine, the competing Glee on Fox skews much younger and does a slightly better 18-49 rating, but advertisers pay much more for Glee than NCIS because of the skew. This season, Glee is netting $272,694 for a 30-second ad, while NCIS is much lower at $150,708 despite being the most watched scripted series. Then there is the case where you may skew inside the 18-49 range, but your overall 18-49 rating is low. Last night's Perfect Couples is a prime example. It only did a prelim 1.9 household rating and a prelim 1.4 18-49 rating. Ouch. But that is nearly 74% in the 18-49 proportion. In this case it doesn't matter, since the overall 18-49 rating is very low. The ideal case is a show that skews 18-49 and still has a good overall 18-49 rating. Some good examples are Modern Family, Cougar Town, American Idol, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory and Grey's Anatomy.
Another factor I want to cover is retention. Yes, it is important but with same day DVR thru 3am being added to the ratings, it really doesn't tell you the retention because people are watching the shows at a different time. The only way to "truly" measure retention is by the actual live ratings, since it is not counting the added same day DVR thru 3am. Many of the big hit shows add over a point to their 18-49 rating because of the same day DVR added, thus this really messes up the retention rate. One show that is heavily DVRed is the CBS Monday comedy How I Met Your Mother. Looking at its last new episode on Jan. 17, it did a 3.9 18-49 rating. Take away any DVR for that night thru 3am, and it comes out to a 2.7. So 1.2 was added that very same night thru 3am. They watched it at 9pm or 2am, or anytime between 8:30pm-3am. The show following the comedy on the CBS schedule at 8:30pm is Rules of Engagement. It is not as heavily DVRed as Mother, so the retention rate gets messed up all the time. Rules on Jan. 17 did a 3.3 18-49 rating, so it "lost" 0.6 from its lead-in. But did it really? Taking away any DVR from that night, Rules comes out to a 2.6 18-49 rating, only losing a tenth from Mother's live rating. So it isn't bad at all, as the retention rate is actually 96% there and not 85% when same day DVR is factored in. So why would retention rates matter when same day DVR thru 3am is being added to the ratings? It would only matter if you are seeing the actual live ratings, because people can watch these shows anytime now until 3am and have the ratings counted.
Next is how to track a new show. The NBC drama Harry's Law premiered on Jan. 17 and it has been consistent through its first three airings (yes, it has faced a repeat or two for all of its airings so far, but still consistent). The 18-49 track for the first three episodes are 2.2, 2.1, and 2.1. That is not much of a drop at all, which is good. The overall 18-49 rating is decent for 10pm these days, too. However, like Blue Bloods it skews terribly old. It may be doing around 11 million, but less than 30% of its audience is in the 18-49 proportion, so it is less likely the ads are being watched in the demo. It is still early to determine the status of Harry's Law, as the next four weeks will be key as both Castle and Hawaii Five-0 are all-new these four weeks. If it can maintain the 2.0-2.2 average, then NBC will for sure bring it back despite the old skew. Anything lower might be Friday material because it has a good overall audience still. The CBS drama The Good Wife does a similar skew currently. It started off higher last year in the 18-49 rating than Harry, though, but right now it is doing a 2.2 18-49 rating. It will be interesting to see if CBS moves it to another night (Friday?) next season as the overall 18-49 rating has dipped this season. The only thing that might prevent CBS from moving it is that its their only drama that is critically acclaimed and wins awards. Harry's Law still has plenty more to do before it can be in the same league as The Good Wife.
One other thing I want to note is repeat airings. Why do serialized shows get repeat airings? Because the ad money is the same as it would be for a new episode. This is why Grey's Anatomy, which doesn't repeat well but gets a lot of ad money, is repeated. Sure it is good to be competitive once in a while and remove the repeat for something that does better in the ratings, but ultimately ad money would win. I am sure when ABC preempted a scheduled Grey's repeat for the Barbara Walters special with Oprah on Dec. 8 it didn't generate as much as a Grey's Anatomy episode would have done. So, yes, this is why you see some repeats of shows that don't repeat well. It's all about ad money.
I think that's about it. I was looking through the web and not many people understand how to look at TV ratings these days. There is one great blog I came upon on my search and it uses much more stats to back things up than I just did. Take a look at this read from the Spotted blog from December 2009. That is just one of many blog articles that was well "spot on," so you might want to read some of the other blogs (like this one) during that time frame. I hope you learned something today and remember...it's all about ad money and the 18-49 demo (preferably skewing in that demo). See you on Sunday for our normal ratings report, like usual.


It's Friday, so it is time for "Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows" for the coming week. This is where we list what sitcom stars are appearing on talk shows for the coming week, the stars are both current and past sitcom stars (but we won't cover movie stars like Tom Hanks or John Travolta, since they won't be talking about their past sitcoms likely), so this is for all sitcom fans of all eras!
For the week of Feb. 7-11, 2010, we have many current sitcom stars and past sitcom stars on TV talk shows! So get your DVR's (or whatever you use) ready! Ready? Here is all what you need to know for the coming week!

Monday, February 7, 2011
  • Martin Lawrence (Martin) - Watch Martin on Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Sarah Chalke (Mad Love/Scrubs) - Catch Sarah on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love) - Watch Jason also on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Matthew Perry (Mr. Sunshine/Friends) - Watch Matthew on LIVE! with Regis & Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Allison Janney (Mr. Sunshine) - Watch Allison on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so you'll have to check listings for time and station.
  • Jessica Walter (Retired at 35/Arrested Development/Three's a Crowd) - Catch Jessica on The Joy Behar Show at 9pm on HLN.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
  • Matthew Perry (Mr. Sunshine/Friends) - See Matthew as he visits The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the daytime (check listings) and then in late night on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 12am.
  • Kevin Nealon (Weeds) - Catch Kevin on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 12:37am on NBC.
  • Ed Helms (The Office) - Catch Ed on NBC's TODAY show sometime between 7-9am then a few hours later on The View at 11am ET/10am CT-PT on ABC.
  • Martin Lawrence (Martin) - Watch Martin on LIVE! with Regis & Kelly on your local affiliate.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
  • Ty Burell (Modern Family/Back to You) - Watch the funnyman on ABC's The View at 11am ET/10am CT-PT then later on Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Matt LeBlanc (Episodes/Friends/Joey) - Matt visits The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC at 11:35pm.
  • Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show) - Watch the TV legend on Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS at 12:37am.
  • Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) - It's all right because you can watch Mario on OWN's The Gayle King Show at 10am.
  • Kevin Nealon (Weeds) - Watch Kevin on TODAY sometine between 7-11am on NBC.
  • Roseanne Barr (Roseanne) - Catch Roseanne on The Mo'nique Show on BET at 11pm.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
  • Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory/Roseanne) - Watch Johnny on the Rachel Ray Show so check your local listings.
Friday, February 11, 2011
  • Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation/Scrubs) - Catch Aziz on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 12:37am on NBC.
  • Ed Helms (The Office) - Ed appears on Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love) - See Jason on Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS promoting his upcoming sitcom.
  • Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) - Watch Lisa on The Gayle King Show on OWN at 10am.
Leave us comments on our message board or Tweet/Facebook us to let us know what you think of this Friday feature! We do listen!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, February 17

The Middle - "The Setup" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Frankie is tasked with being at her mom Pat’s (Marsha Mason) beck and call when she has to stay for a few days at the Heck house after coming down with an ailment. Meanwhile, just when it looks like Sean is about to ask Sue out on a date, Sue nervously blurts out that maybe they should both try to set each other up on a date with one of their friends; and Axl and Brick ponder what it is exactly that Mike does at the quarry.

The Middle - "Eyes Wide Open" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Axl heads to Chicago to visit Hutch for the weekend but discovers that his friend, who has his own apartment and a job, is now acting more like a responsible adult than the free-spirited college student he once knew. Meanwhile, Sue’s excitement over having the apartment to herself over the weekend turns to horror when she is unable to sleep after watching “Silence of the Lambs”; and Brick enlists Frankie and Mike’s aid to help convince Lilah, a new student who doesn’t know anyone at school yet, that she and Brick would make a cute couple.

black-ish - "Please Don't Feed the Animals" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Bow keeps in touch with Dre’s incarcerated godbrother, Omar, but when they find out he is being released from prison, Omar’s future sparks debate. Meanwhile, Ruby lets it slip to the kids that she’s been to jail and they push her to tell them more secrets from her past.

black-ish - "Charity Case" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Dre is chosen to lead Stevens & Lido’s new charity campaign which helps people give back to their community. When Bow advises Dre that there is more to giving back than cutting checks, he decides to donate some of his clothes to a man in need. Meanwhile, Junior fails his driving test, so Ruby offers to chaperone a trip with him and the twins on an informative outing.

The Thundermans - "Rhythm n' Shoes " (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Determined to meet a famous pop singer visiting Hiddenville High, Phoebe and Max devise elaborate schemes to insert themselves into her performance that quickly lead to disastrous results.

Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn - "The Harper Quad-Jobbers" (Nickelodeon, 8:30PM ET/PT)
The quads try to earn money for a pool so that their house can be the place everyone wants to hang out at during the summer.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 12)

Friday, February 16

  • Sam Rockwell (F Is for Family) - Watch Sam on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Laura Benanti (The Detour/Go On/Starved) - Laura appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Tiffani Thiessen (Alexa & Katie/Good Morning, Miami/Saved by the Bell/Saved by the Bell: The College Years) - Tiffani chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) - Holly and her husband Rodney talk about the Hallmark Channel original series Meet the Peetes on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Becki Newton (Divorce/Weird Loners/The Goodwin Games/How I Met Your Mother) - Becki chats about Divorce on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Lori Loughlin (Fuller House/Hudson Street/Full House) - Lori appears on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York sometime between 7-10am.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (November/December/January)

The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season Living Single - The Complete Third Season Alice - The Complete Sixth Season One Day at a Time - The Complete Series Fuller House - The Complete Second Season

11/07 - American Dad! - Volume 12
11/07 - Family Guy - Season Fifteen
11/07 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Third Season
11/14 - D.C. Follies - The Complete Series
11/21 - Living Single - The Complete Third Season
11/24 - Grandfathered - Season 1
12/05 - Alice - The Complete Sixth Season
12/05 - One Day at a Time - The Complete Series
12/05 - The Simpsons - The Eighteenth Season
12/05 - South Park - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
12/12 - Fuller House - The Complete Second Season
12/19 - South Park - The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray) / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11
01/09 - Girlfriends - The Complete Series
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest