I'll give Marc Berman some credit in his piece on the broadcast network rankings in Mediaweek today, he noted several things that many TV writers ignore in their stories on relative network performance, yet he still fell into two traps that typically snare TV trade industry writers. Keep these two traps in mind as you read other stories on relative performance as the season comes to an end.
The Strike and Its Effect on 2007-8
Before CBS pops any champagne just yet, it’s important to keep in mind that last season’s ratings for all the broadcast networks were down considerably due to the 14-week writer’s strike. With that in mind, they all should have looked better this season compared to last.
Bravo. A year after the strike, many in the trade press never seem to mention it. And it is a big factor in any year to year analysis.
The Bad: However no mention of the fact that CBS fell the most last season (most directly because of the strike), so the fact that they're up the most this season needs to be seen in that light. No mention also that Fox was the only network up last season vs. 2006-7. When the season is over, I'll add another chart showing not only the change since 2007-8, but also the change from 2006-7. That will be very interesting.
The Super Bowl Effect
Suddenly consistent NBC did, however, have the advantage of airing Super Bowl XLIII (which was a close game, translating to higher ratings) this season.
Any mention at all of the Super Bowl, is better than nothing. And that's better than many in the trade press.
The Bad: The Super Bowl gets only a mention, but nothing about its effects on the seasonal numbers. Fact is, the game has gigantic effect on the relative differences between the networks that had it (NBC in 2009, Fox in 2008) that it twists any comparisons of their averages for the season. That's why I remove Super Bowl week from my season to season comparisons.
Of the magnitude of the season to season declines Berman cites for Fox, half or more of the %'s are due to having the Super Bowl in 2008 and not in 2009, but that's not mentioned.
And Berman makes it sound like ABC is barely ahead of NBC this season vs. last in adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Not so if you remove the Super Bowl, then ABC's performance vs. last seaon in those demos are much better than NBC's.