I don’t have any posting privileges on Whedonesque.com and I couldn’t respond there, so I am responding here. Essentially, some folks are trying to rework the math I did here on Dollhouse, based on new information on advertising spot cost estimates from Ad Age’s Brian Steinberg.
I certainly never intended anyone think that the framework I posted last month was anything other than a framework for thinking about things. I noted that I was using $50,000 as a conservative estimate of what a 1.5 adults 18-49 rating would pull and that the actual revenue for a 1.5 rating was probably a bit higher.
The one thing to consider with the Ad Age numbers is that they were largely driven from the upfront sales last spring. We lack the average C3 numbers (live plus 3 day DVR commercial viewing) for season 1 of Dollhouse, but we can reasonably conclude that it was the average numbers for the season that pricing was based on.
Last season Dollhouse averaged a 1.5 live+SD program rating with adults 18-49. Since we lack the actual C3 numbers, I think it’s fair to figure that Brian’s estimate of around $56,400 roughly correlates with the 1.5 live+SD program rating averages with adults 18-49. My using $50K as a conservative baseline (and noting that it was likely a bit light for a 1.5) was fine for my rudimentary purposes.
You can use Brian’s estimates as a fair basis for approximating the revenue Dollhouse would generate if it was averaging a 1.5 adults 18-49 rating. Unfortunately you can’t just take the $56,400 number multiply it by 32 spots and say voila, $1.8 million per episode in ad revenue!
Sure, you could do that if it were averaging a 1.5, but, you know… 1.0, .9, 1.0, and .8 comes out to be around a .9. Which is only about 60% of a 1.5 and if we apply that math to Ad Age’s number, roughly $33,800 per spot.
If advertisers paid up front based on the a 1.5 adults 18-49 rating (since we lack the C3 numbers) and Dollhouse is coming in at 60 percent of that, there are two ways to settle up. Givebacks and make-goods. Givebacks almost never happen. The crowbar necessary to pry the cash the network has already received out of its hands is a tool rarely found.
Make-goods are far more common, that’s where the networks settle up with the advertisers by giving them additional commercial time at no additional cost. And that’s what they’ll likely have to do with any advertisers who made upfront buys for Dollhouse.
I’m definitely not out to get Dollhouse (and I really did like “Belonging” a lot!), and it doesn’t really much matter what the spot costs were at the upfront. The thing I think you can count on very reliably is that those spots (and published estimates) were based on the averages for season one, and unfortunately the average for season two isn’t nearly as good.