Lost in the PMC/Finke/Deadline/Variety News: Michael Ausiello’s TVLine is a Traffic Powerhouse

Categories: TV Business

Written By

October 9th, 2012

The news that Jay Penske’s PMC bought Variety in an auction for $25 million has unsurprisingly unleashed the theme that upstart disruptor “Nikki Finke” vanquished Variety while comfortably typing in her underwear from her own bedroom. Finke deserves credit for that and it’s a great story.

The media establishment that writes about the TV business  doesn’t write nearly as much about Michael Ausiello or his TVLine site which is also under Penske’s PMC umbrella. But I’m a numbers junkie with a very healthy respect for big scale, things that scale big fast, and things that scale big efficiently. Hard work that produces great results? I have a lot of respect for that and that's pretty much TVLine’s story. Maybe that's not interesting enough of an angle to get much ink in the trades, but the results are most impressive.

The chart  below isn’t very easy to read but the top orange line is hollywoodreporter.com, the second line is tvline.com, the third line is deadline.com and the last line is hitfix.com.

If TVLine had been around for five years I’d still be darn impressed. But IT HAS DONE THIS IN LESS THAN TWO YEARS!  Less than two years! In less than 2 years, TVLine nearly has as many page views as The Hollywood Reporter. Though THR actually has a huge lead when it comes to the number of people visiting its site, TVLine’s readers are far more engaged than THR’s.

TVLine has a mere six FTEs (full-time equivalent employees) plus some support from parent company PMC.  THR has dozens of editors and staff. Of course, it also has a print publication, but still… it has more than a dozen editors just in its TV editorial group.

I included Deadline in the chart above because of the sibling nature, but Deadline isn’t a great comparison since it’s a trade rather than a general entertainment site. Deadline specifically targets trade advertising dollars, so those rooting against Finke & Deadline and seeing a ray of hope in the above chart are going to be disappointed. Deadline's efficiency is impressive too. But still, TVLine is approaching nearly double Deadline’s page views in less than two years and valid comparison or not, it’s eye-popping.

Quantcast limits comparisons like the one above to four sites at a time so  I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are entertainment sites with more traffic -- our partner Zap2it and Ausiello’s former EW among them. Those sites are doing great, but what impresses me most about TVLine’s trajectory is that it hasn’t even been around for two years and unlike sites like THR, Hitfix and Deadline, TVLine only focuses on the TV space rather than the broader entertainment space.  By comparison the other sites listed above cover the broader entertainment space and have been around longer - Deadline since 2006 and HitFix since late 2008.

Congrats to Michael Ausiello and the TVLine team on their impressive traffic.

  • Jennifer Arrow

    The TVLine people work their ASSES OFF and deserve every bit of this admiration. Each and every one is a 24/7 multitasking journo-beast and their readers are lucky to have them.

  • lll

    Those shows are my trinity too.

  • E

    TV Line, EW and TVBTN are my “trinity” because I always know what I’m going to get. And I don’t know who @MattM is trolling for but I find pretty much the opposite, I read most stuff for the first time at TV Line and EW.

  • Nick

    TV Line is a good website. They’re the only ones that can be counted on to be on & posting at 11 pm!
    I also find all of the little tiny niche websites, and some of them are pretty good.
    These are my core sites:

    8. TV Series Finale
    7. The Voice of TV
    6. Zap2it (same spoiler problem, though)
    5. TV Blend (sister to Cinema Blend)
    4. TV Guide
    3. TV Fanatic
    2. TV Line
    1. TVBTN Of Course!

    I peruse these every day. (I have no life ;-) )
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Nick

    TV By The Numbers is in a different class than TV Line. TVBTN is a ratings website, and TV Line is a spoiler/scoop website. I can safely say that they’re the best of their kind!

  • Tim


    I don’t go on message boards before a show airs on the west coast but I should be able to go to other sites and not be subjected to spoilers immediately after they aired in the east. Most sites including TVBTN understand this and respect us out here. I go on TVBTN to check news and listings in the evening and the zap2it crawl is unavoidable. Is it such a big deal that zap2it can’t say..”Latest Survivor voted out” instead of giving the name?

  • Doug

    Ausiello has a big fanbase, and is a TV fanatic. I never get the impression that Finke is, so it’s not surprising.

  • Doug

    @Nick – I might check out The Futon Critic, too. He seems to have become lost in the rush of TV news websites, but it’s still a great place for TV production notes, and he does an annual early review of pilots that’s a good read.

  • Jho

    I also wrote to zap2it because they spoiled everything in their titles. I think they stopped it for a while cause i wasnt the only one writing them but judging by the comments they are on it again.

    They probably do it as a good SEO but you would think they should have realized by now that it has backfired.

    I used to be a regular there but stopped visiting about two years ago.

  • Justin121 re: NBC

    I only heard about TVLine from comments here and on EW.

    I ignored it for some time but then decided to check it out.

    Not bad, but not good.

    That said, I’m surprised you’re doing this whole piece basically promoting that site. Your commentors already kind of helped with their traffic.

    I like TVBTN’s objectivity but this just feels… unusual.

  • Justin121 re: NBC

    I agree with the ones who said TVLine is amateurish and fan-boyish.

    I visit TVBTN and EW almost daily, Deadline every now and then, and every time I visit TVLine, I remember why I don’t frequent it as often.

    I like that TVBTN doesn’t just stick to the numbers. Sometimes they have entertainment-related articles – just enough not to veer away from the primary focus of the site (i.e. the Numbers).

    EW is the most professional, well-presented entertainment news magazine.

    Deadline – I go there when isn’t new articles on EW and TVBTN. They have additional worthy headlines but their articles are not well presented. EW usualy provieds what’s breaking on the other sites so generaly I don’t have to go there.

    By comments system:


    By quality of comments / interaction of commentors:


    Presentation of articles:


  • Dan S

    If Zap 2 It & the Internet existed in the early 80’s they probably would’ve spilled who shot JR before Dallas aired out west. I don’t dare go to their site after primetime has started out in the east.

  • Riff Rafferty

    Not just that but “Grey’s Anatomy” is a bigger ratings powerhouse than “Breaking Bad”, McDonald’s has more customers than Masa, and kids are likelier to shop at Hot Topic than Saks Fifth Avenue.

    But do let us know when TV Line posts something of value to anybody over the age of 13 and I’ll be happy to head on over there and “riff” it up.

  • Steve

    I followed Slezak from EW.com over to TVLine. I gave it a shot for awhile, but never thought their content was all the great.

  • npr

    This makes total sense. TVLine is delivering and they have so much potential for growth – from a staff perspective, from a site design and funstionality perspective – it’s going to be fun to watch the traffic and audience grow along with the site. COngrats to TVLine on its first two years of powerhose performance, looking forward to seeing what’s next.

  • cas127

    Now if only internet page view CPM’s were going for more than 50 cents…at 22 million PVs per month, that translates into about $132 grand a year – not bad but not fantastic if much more than one person is working there…

    Of course, they might get more than 50 cents/CPM – but The God That Walks (Facebook) with precision targeting out the yin yang only gets about 50 cents…of course they have 88 giga-bazillion impressions to sell but still…

    How do you web sites keep the lights on?

    Zombie part-timers?

    Outsourcing to Chinese prison camps?

    “Happy Ending” with every ad buy?

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures