CBS's David Poltrack Touts New Golden Age Of Broadcast TV, But Your Favorite Low Rated Show Is Still Getting Canceled

Categories: Broadcast TV,TV Business

Written By

December 3rd, 2012

As he is from time to time, CBS's chief research officer David Poltrack  is out on the PR hustings again, as detailed by a piece in today's LA Times.

Like much of the PR out from broadcast network folks this Fall, his message at the UBS Media and Communications Conference was all about how the TV viewing patterns were changing (more VOD! more DVR viewing! more streaming!) and how the broadcast networks business was changing with it.

I understand why that message needs to get out, and based on their adaptation to the viewership declines in broadcast primetime over the last 30 years, I'm pretty confident that the broadcast networks will figure out how to modify their business models in the years ahead as things continue to change.

What I'm even more confident about though is that remarks like Poltrack's about VOD, DVR viewing and streaming will be grasped at by desperate fans as misconstrued "evidence" that their low rated shows will be "saved" by one or more of those factors.

Someday that just might be the case, but today the revenue from online viewing and VOD viewing is minuscule compared with the ad revenue from live TV viewing (and DVR viewing within 3 days), and so that's what drives the renewal and cancellation of broadcast primetime TV shows now.

My guess is that TV by the Numbers is long gone by the time online and VOD viewing is significant enough to tip the balance of a decision on an otherwise low rated show.

Until then, pull out your Fan Excuse Bingo cards and get ready to cover the "But, it's got huge online streaming numbers!" square.

 
  • Ted Linhart (USA Network)

    Agree (except for long gone part) think 5 years… til other platforms can save show (and don’t see TVBN gone then)

  • DW

    im curious. if a show is low like a good wife but is steady would they be more likely to keep it on than a show that continues to fall in the ratings in that season?.

  • James

    If its on the CW. (Hart of Dixie, The Secret Circle)

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “Agree (except for long gone part) think 5 years… til other platforms can save show (and don’t see TVBN gone then)”

    Thanks for the long term vote of confidence Ted, but those Mai Tai’s on the beach will probably start looking pretty good in less than 5 years.

    ” if a show is low like a good wife but is steady would they be more likely to keep it on than a show that continues to fall in the ratings in that season?.”

    I wouldn’t extrapolate this example elsewehre, because something non-public may have tipped the balance, but here is what the CW did last season and the ratings trends behind it.

    Hart Of Dixie – very consistently a 0.5/0.6 all spring long, never higher, never lower. Renewed.
    The Secret Circle – before April pretty consistently 0.7/0.8, fell to a 0.5/0.6 beginning in April. Canceled.

    Edit: James beat me to it while I was typing!

  • THE OLD MAN

    @ Bill

    You’ve pretty much been saying the same since Sept! Won’t mention any names, but hopefully ERIDAPO will see this post.

    Put a win in your column!

    @ DW

    My guess is they would be more likely to keep TGW over a show that continues to fall (putting my Crazed fan perspective aside).

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “My guess is they would be more likely to keep TGW over a show that continues to fall”

    Not to mention that getting examples as seemingly clear cut as HoD/TSC isn’t likely to be a common occurrence.

  • THE OLD MAN

    Yeah, but those bubble shows on CBS are so intriguing. The spring semester will definitely tell the tale. Those non-public attributes are always the perplexing part of the puzzle.

    The public attribute in TGW’s favor may be JM’s salary & the salaries guest stars are willing to take to be on the show, which IMHO make the show extremely cost effective. The syndication non-sales do bother me, but I’m straightening out the warehouse even as we speak!

  • omabin

    I think the issue is not so much consistency, as it is the fact that averages should be calculate with an astronomic weight being given to the last three or four episodes aired by the show and consistently lower weight to the episodes before that. I did this and I got for last season: Hart of Dixie: 0,68 index and The Secret Circle: 0,66 index.

    Another one, which tends to not be very spoken about, is Body of Proof. It surged massively in the last three episodes it aired and I believe that is why it got renewed (together, of course, with ABC having a bad pilot season and wanting backup filler). Based on this calculations, the show had a 0,79 index number last year. By comparison, Scandal (the last show above it on my index to be renewed) was 0,93, whereas GCB (the last show below it to be canceled) had a 0,75. This would make BoP a clear bubble show, so its renewal could be expected (as would its cancelation, sure).

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Thanks for the long term vote of confidence Ted, but those Mai Tai’s on the beach will probably start looking pretty good in less than 5 years.

    I’m with Ted Linhart on TVBTN longevity: 1.) you didn’t think TVBTN would last the first 5 years, I’m much more confident about the next 5; 2.) you are *ten* years away from the beach, and that has nothing to do with TVBTN!; 3.) you being on the beach and a continued TVBTN are not mutually exclusive. Even if you change it to the “I’ll have long since moved on from TVBTN by then”…I’d bet heavily against you being long gone in 5 years.

    That said, as much as I value Ted’s opinion, I’m not confident that VOD will save a show within 5 years, too much viewing has to move there. A lot of network folks (Poltrack among them) wag a finger at Nielsen and say they need to measure alternate viewing better. While that’s no doubt true, the finger wagging masks what I see as the bigger issue: that advertisers don’t want to pay for it — at all, in the case of post 7 day DVR or as much as TV in the case of online streams.

    Though I’m working with only my limited last 5 years view of the world, when it comes to changing their minds about what they want to pay for, advertisers make glaciers and pachyderms look fast.

  • Lance

    If this is truly “The New Golden Age of Broadcast Television” then the value of gold sure ain’t what it used to be! Apparently Mr. Poltrack’s opinion isn’t even worth the price of tin.

  • Anon

    I learned a new word today: husting.

  • LisaNeedsBraces

    It doesn’t matter how many people watch VOD a week after a show airs, or how many watch on DVR a week after a show airs. Advertisers are not paying for people to fast forward through week old commercials. Companies still want the people parked on their asses in front of the tv the night a show airs, watching the commercials live. Period. Until that changes the nets can spin all the want, but they know it’s useless because they’re not getting paid for DVR+7 numbers.

    Thank God for TVBN who is one of the few outlets that hasn’t bought into that BS network spin (coughDeadlinecough).

  • Nikki

    The CW doesnt play fair with their shows.. not all networks are that extream like the CW.

  • 728huey

    @Bill Gorman

    If you’re looking to have a happy retirement sipping mai tais on the beach within the next five years, then my kudos to you. :-) However, that doesn’t necessarily mean TVBTN has to end with it. I’m sure you could arrange a tidy financial settlement with some media company with big pockets that wants a web presence which includes coverage of television ratings from an empirically measured standpoint much in the same way the New York Times took a huge interest four years ago in a blogger who could predict the outcome of a presidential election based on quantitative polling data. I believe your little website has a lot of value within the entertainment and media industries.

  • Jordan

    I do have to agree somewhat with what this guy is saying.

    Viewership is declining because today’s society keeps everyone incredibly busy, including myself. Values have changed. Friday night shows were always the dynamite time slots but now it’s the night that everyone chooses to go out and socialize. With DVRs, online viewing, and on demand video, there are more conventional methods for watching TV programs that were not prevalent 10 years ago. It has been very rare over the past several years for a show to remain a ratings hit.

    How they measure ratings will definitely change sometime soon. And it needs to be changed. I don’t see how it’s fair to only focus on Adults 18-49. For a show like The Good Wife, which pulls in roughly 9-10 million viewers each week but only a 1.6 demo, it’s still pulling in more viewers than every other show besides The Walking Dead.

    The people who are watching, regardless of age, is what should matter to networks. The fact that I am a college student living at home but my parents are both past age 49 upsets me because basically, my viewership doesn’t count in the demo for a show like TGW.

  • Riddy

    I think everything wll gravitate towards the Internet eventually. Media player units will become the standard in homes. TV as a separate entity from the Internet will cease to exist.

  • Kyle7

    @Jordan: “I don’t see how it’s fair to only focus on Adults 18-49…The people who are watching, regardless of age, is what should matter to networks.”

    Well, life’s not fair. Business is convinced that younger people are worth the big advertising bucks while older ones are not. They have their reasons, and that line of thinking has apparently worked out for them on the whole. The networks therefore use the most valuable demographic to sell ad time. The nets’ primary concern is making money; making a good show is a secondary concern, and they’ll take a profitable one over critical acclaim almost every time. If you can convince everyone buying ad time that every adult is worth an equal amount of money, the nets will start charging for total viewers.

    “The fact that I am a college student living at home but my parents are both past age 49 upsets me because basically, my viewership doesn’t count in the demo for a show like TGW.”

    I believe Nielsen’s meters require the person or people watching a show to enter a unique code identifying who they are so they know which members of a household are actually watching. If your household was a Nielsen one, they would be able to tell that you, a demo viewer, were watching TGW.

  • Masterbreel

    What is fair or not, what is measured or not and mostly what people think is not important. It what the advertisers want, and how much they are willing to pay. So, if advertisers pay for viewing 18-49 measured live+sd or live+3days thats that. May nog be ‘fair’ or whatever, but it the market (and Americans love free markets).

    Moreover, if the advertisrs would massively decide for amount of grammy nominations, TGW would suddenly gain a renewal for 10 years i think. However, the advertisers do not want that, so they do not pay for it. Nor do they pay for viewers over 100 years old, or babies.

  • TV Gord

    Poltrack is selling us the way the networks wish things were. You’re telling us the way things really are.

    Everybody’s doing their job. :-)

  • bluejays

    Advertisers will eventually change but at glacial speed. Then our favorite shows will be hell and so people will stop watching broadcast anyway.

    That freaky five minute Subway commercial on HFO? That will become ninety percent of broadcast shows. Nothing but one long, long commerical – even more in your face than it is right now (and shows like NCIS LA are already bad enough)!

© 2014 Tribune Digital Ventures