Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

This week Ad Age (thanks Anthony Crupi) did a piece on what looks like it may be one of the hot topics going into this year’s upfront: the reduction in commercial load in programs. FOX has announced something called JAZ where, I gather, there will be fewer commercials within the body of a show, with longer breaks surrounding the shows. There will be no increase in the length of the programs, but rather there will be added content that advertisers can sponsor. I think I got all that right.
NBC Universal and Turner also have their versions of the concept -- NBCU is promising 10 percent less commercial time in shows, with some longer, "premium" spots -- and I'm sure the snake oil will be flying at the presentations.
There are so many issues with all this. The most obvious is this: Will fewer commercial units be offset by commensurate increases in the unit cost? I seriously doubt it. Since there is no added program content, these long branded pods between shows will undermine any audience flow that still remains between shows. That could impact program ratings.
And since so much of viewing is delayed viewing, what is the difference between fast forwarding through a 60-second break and a two-minute break? Finally, this does not impact (for now) affiliate time in a show, so there will still be some long breaks. Good luck with convincing your affiliates to play along with all this.
I have previously mentioned here that at FOX, we tried something like this. We called it "Remote Free TV" and announced it for "Fringe" and "Dollhouse." We did not get the increase in CPM to offset the limited commercial load, and within an episode or two, the minute-by-minute dips in the breaks were no different with the shorter duration. "Remote Free TV" lasted one season.
"Empire" had fewer commercials than average, and given that it was red hot in its first two season, FOX left millions on the table by not adding additional units. I believe "Empire" now has a full commercial load.
What does not seem to come up in these conversations are the responsibilities of both the networks and the advertisers to make compelling programming that people want to see. No amount of playing with the format will change anything if the content of the show AND the commercials are not satisfying.
I applaud the networks for trying, but I think there are other tricks (in addition to better shows and commercials) that might have a better impact than simply reformatting or eliminating commercial load.
Thoughts? Send them to masked.scheduler@gmail.com or @maskedscheduler on Twitter.

Note: The Ad Age story referenced by the Masked Scheduler can be found here.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The numbers for Wednesday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 rating/share
Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. Empire (FOX) 1.7/7 5.32
Survivor (CBS) 1.6/7 7.70
The Voice (NBC) 1.4/6 8.24
The Goldbergs (ABC) – R 0.7/3 3.54
Riverdale (The CW) 0.4/2 1.08
8:30 p.m. Alex, Inc. (ABC) 0.6/3 2.86
9 p.m. Law & Order: SVU (NBC) 1.4/5 6.53
Star (FOX) 1.3/5 4.04
Criminal Minds (CBS) (9-11 p.m.) – F 0.9/4 5.64
Modern Family (ABC) – R 0.7/3 3.09
The Originals (The CW) – P 0.4/2 1.00
9:30 p.m. American Housewife (ABC) – R 0.8/3 2.91
10 p.m. Chicago PD (NBC) 1.2/5 6.58
Designated Survivor (ABC) 0.6/3 3.50

 

“Law & Order: SVU” jumped in the ratings Wednesday, improving three tenths of a poiont in adults 18-49 vs. last week.

“SVU” scored a 1.4 in the 18-49 demographic, tying its second-best mark of the season. The show had a bigger than usual lead-in with “The Voice” (1.4). “Chicago PD” rose a tenth to 1.2.

“The Originals” began its final season on The CW with a 0.4, up 0.1 from last season’s debut. “Riverdale” (0.4) improved a tenth on its last episode on March 28.

“Empire” held onto its spot as the night’s top show at 1.7, off a tenth from last week’s fast nationals (it adjusted up in the finals). “Star” held steady at 1.3.

“Survivor” matched last week’s 1.6 for CBS, and the two-hour finale of “Criminal Minds” was even with last week’s 0.9. ABC’s “Alex, Inc.” scored a season-low 0.6 with a repeat lead-in, and “Designated Survivor” matched last week’s 0.6.

Network averages:

FOX NBC CBS ABC CW
Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.5/6 1.3/5 1.1/4 0.7/3 0.4/2
Total Viewers (millions) 4.68 7.12 6.33 3.23 1.04

 

Late-night metered market ratings (adults 18-49, households):

11:35 p.m.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.5/3, 1.8/5

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.4/3, 2.5/7

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.4/3, 1.6/4

12:35 a.m.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers” – R: 0.3/3, 1.0/4

“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: 0.2/2, 1.1/4

“Nightline”: 0.2/2, 1.1/4

Definitions:

Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.
Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings are available at approximately 11 a.m. ET the day after telecast. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. 
Share (of Audience): 
The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. 
Time Shifted Viewing:
 Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live +Same-Day and Live +7 Day. Time-shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs. Live+SD includes viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3 a.m. local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live +7 ratings include  viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

Source: The Nielsen Company.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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