Inside TV Ratings and Predicting the Next Big Money Making Show
For years, executives and producers would sweat the weekly Nielsen TV ratings, seeing as the ratings could make or break the revenue the show generated from advertising. However, the rise of uber-profitable TV series on DVD sales plus the decay of live TV advertising with the rise of Tivo and DVR is changing the profitability equation for TV shows. Now, smaller TV programs that are produced on a smaller budget have a chance to become money makers if their audience is rabid and buys the DVD in droves. This doesn't exclude the home runs of big budget shows like Lost that profit on the regular TV advertising plus DVD sales. So, with the omnipresent Nielsen ratings, we've decided to look at the flip side to identify which programs can be the next big money making show because of the nature of their rabid audience and by looking at how popular they are in the online realm. Here's a look at the Top 10 Nielsen rated shows from December 4th through December 10th:
This list is a little bit misleading because many of the top shows aired reruns last week (Grey's Anatomy would typically be at #1), but it works nonetheless. A Nielsen newbie would likely be taken aback by a number of the shows in the top ten. If someone pays attention to pop culture (which gets increasingly difficult not to, by the day), the discrepancy between ratings and buzz on a show can be huge. Criminal Minds is a ratings juggernaut, sometimes even getting more overall viewers than time slot competitor Lost. Anyone with two eyes has witnessed the media frenzy that has surrounded Lost since its first season. The internet is filled with Lost fanatics, the cast members have become stars and the show has become a legitimate cultural phenomenon. Look at websites like The Tail Section, or The Lost Experience, or check out Lost's page on Wikipedia. Lost is everywhere. Yet, somehow, Criminal Minds, a direct competitor that has almost as many viewers as Lost, is virtually invisible in the media. No one talks about it outside of the TV industry, the cast members are mostly anonymous, and I've never had Criminal Minds pop up in any casual conversation I've ever had. The Nielsen's are a great system, don't get me wrong. However, with the internet and DVDs turning the television industry on its head, the Nielsen's simply cannot tell the whole story. We need something to compliment the Nielsen's, to broaden the landscape. Over at BuddyTV, we've created a system that we call our Fan Popularity Rankings. We get these ratings by calculating the amount of online traffic each program receives on our site. The internet is a great indicator of how popular a show really is and the potential it has as a franchise. Those likely to buy DVDs of a show are the same ones likely seek online information about it. They're the ones who will remain loyal, create fan sites, and watch reruns, among other things. Here are our Fan Popularity Rankings from December 4th through December 10th:
As you can see, these rankings are wildly different than the Nielsen's. One Tree Hill, which ranks very low on the Nielsen's, is a cult hit. Its viewers are exceedingly loyal, and they have a stranglehold on some key demographics (teenage girls, an important group for advertisers, are relatively obsessed). Grey's Anatomy, even when airing reruns, is always huge. The fans buy the DVDs with reckless abandon and they obliterate their competition, especially CSI, in the demographics that matter. Smallville is my favorite example. Smallville is a show that you will never see on the Nielsen's Top 20. The appeal isn't that broad. However, it's viewers are about as loyal and internet savvy as you can get. Smallville typically ranks very high in the sales of their season DVDs amongst competitors. It's no wonder the show obtains such a high FPR. One thing you won't find in our rankings are the highly rated procedural dramas, like the CSIs, Cold Case, Without a Trace, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and the Law & Orders. These shows have flexible fan bases, resulting from their formulas. Fans can watch an episode here or there and not worry about missing out on the story. DVDs for these shows don't sell nearly as many copies of the shows on our rankings because every episode is more or less the same, and revisiting older episodes is somewhat pointless. It's a new world out there in TV land, and the increase in serial dramas and prime time soaps directed at youngsters is no fluke. These are the things that are profitable in the age of DVDs and the internet. And, as far as I can see, this is a great trend. Embrace it. -Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer