Local TV News: The Solid Medium

I love new electronic toys. They make life easier. Last week, some of my staff members were giving me weird looks as I spoke my IMs. That is, I used the Google voice function on my Droid to write out an instant message rather than typing it. If you ever get any of my text messages, you would know why I like to be able to not use my heavy-handed thumbs to punch out my missives.

But I wonder if the media technologist in all of you (and in me) can become too in love with technology and not recognize the solid delivery that traditional media can provide. Take local news, for example. Traditionally, in the 156 markets that are served by a diary sample issued four times a year, the value of local news can be misunderstood, because it isn’t measured well. First off, numbers bounce all over the place and secondly, there aren’t many numbers at all. The nice thing about the return path data that Rentrak employs is the continuous and large footprint. This means stability and granularity.

Take Rochester, New York, a local market that is in the top 80, where Rentrak has approximately 12,000 homes reporting every day. If we look at the first quarter of this year, for the daily household ratings for Monday through Friday news, we see a very stable pattern across the entire quarter for two local stations. In fact, both the high rated and lower rated stations shown below have the same very low level of statistical variation of <10%. (The coefficient of variation—email me and I’ll explain it.)

Daily M-F News at 6 Chart

And that stability isn’t just something that happened in one quarter. Look at the same quarter in 2012. The rating levels of the two stations have the same stability, and are very close to what they achieved in 2013.

News at 6 Chart

This continuous, solid delivery is not to be taken lightly. Media plans for core targets (of which there are many—I use toilet paper and I hope you do, too) need a strong base from which to build. Local news isn’t a bad place to start from a reach perspective. They provide large audiences, without much duplication between them. The interesting thing is, the news programs do move in tandem, when there are big (or small) news stories, the stations’ ratings track each other as shown below.

Daily M-F News at 6 Chart

Local news can also deliver narrower segments, including online buyers. Rentrak has merged its viewing data with MasterCard’s purchase segments. And, as seen below, a news series can perform well (or at average) in broad categories like grocery shopping and fine dining, and can index higher for Black Friday shopping both on and offline, as well as for very high spenders for Holiday shopping. Something to remember at this time of year.

Index of Top Spending by MasterCard Categories Chart

So, the relatively low-tech medium of local news delivers a substantial audience day in and day out, provides reach, reflects what is (or isn’t) interesting to the local community, and can deliver traditional, and online buyers. I believe that solid delivery can help form the broad base of a media strategy.

Now back to the toys!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Exciting News on VOD Performance by Network

Video on Demand (VOD) is a rapidly growing form of television. The excitement comes from its double-digit growth, particularly in the “TV Entertainment” category, which consists of free programming put up by the traditional broadcast and cable networks, as well as VOD-only networks. Viewers are finding out that their favorite programs don’t have to be DVR’d, and that when a friend mentions a new show, more often than not, it can be found On Demand.

The VOD industry is also moving in an exciting direction to start sharing data. Rentrak has been producing a “Transparency Report” since January 2012. Forty-eight cable networks first agreed to allow monthly data to be shown. That number has grown to more than 60 cable networks. (As I write this, there are no broadcast networks participating.) I thought my loyal fan base (including the guy with the court order to stay back 500 feet) would be interested in a top line peek.

I first took all the 2012 reporting VOD networks and averaged their results over the first half of 2012. I then graphed them out by what is important to media planners and buyers—reach and frequency. Reach is important because it determines the breadth of the target audience. Frequency is important because it reflects how often ads can be delivered.

In the graph below, the horizontal axis is the average monthly reach, or unique set-top boxes that watched a program on a network. The vertical axis is the average number of times a network was watched per month. The intersection of the two axes is at their respective averages, creating a quadrant map. I’ve labeled the networks that have both high reach and high frequency; they are the ones in the upper right-hand quadrant.

Average Reach & Frequency for VOD by Network

Clearly, Music Choice is a strong outlier, with an average frequency more than four times higher than other networks. The video music format obviously is a big draw for repeat viewing. Also interesting to note is the presence of kid’s networks like Nick Jr., Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. Children are “early adopters,” and are masters of the push button (and screen swipe). A&E, TruTV, TBS and Comedy Central round out the quadrant.

However, the picture changes a bit if we look at another key metric—time. The quadrant map below looks at the same networks but has the number of minutes a network was watched on the vertical axis. While the three children’s networks stay in the upper right quadrant, Music Choice slips to the edge. Music Choice, because it is a short form genre, obviously could have many viewers and a lot of frequency yet less dominance in time spent. More networks with longer formatted programs join the quadrant: AMC, History Channel, Impact, Lifetime, MTV, TLC, TNT and VH1. Comedy Central stays on the edge of the quadrant.

Average Reach & Time Spent Viewing for VOD by Network

I’d be a bad researcher if I said this is a definitive look at VOD. Not all networks have agreed to be transparent, and I haven’t even shared with you all the networks we do have data on.

Finally, when you think about those millions of VOD viewers, just waiting for someone to put in a super impactful pre-roll ad as they settle into watch the program they have deliberately decided to engage with, doesn’t the ad man (person) in you salivate? I know I do! And these Rentrak transparency reports will help build the marketplace to make it happen.

More information on VOD can be found in Rentrak’s State of VOD: Trend Report and monthly transparency reports. Please contact Gordon Jones, Rentrak’s VP, OnDemand Everywhere, at gordon.jones@rentrak.com if you are interested in either of these reports.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

The Value of Media Leverage

I recommend a highly interesting review by Brian Wieser (brian@pvtl.com) of Pivotal Research Group on the announced merger of Publicis and Omnicom, as well as Facebook’s claim to be an effective ad medium because of its broad reach in daytime. In his analysis, Brian makes the point that reach by time of day is not the key factor in media planning—the intrinsic effectiveness and cost of the media come first. That is one reason for the Publicis OMD merger—to develop ways to buy online video at a cheaper rate.

But beyond that, Brian also makes this point:

“For a good illustration of how issues like the above play out elsewhere, consider: if marketers could identify the 20 percent of local markets that drive 80 percent of variations in outcomes, wouldn’t they spend more money on local media? It’s a potentially massively more efficient way to spend money, and one which marketers have had the capacity to execute against for many many years…and yet if anything marketers with nationally-skewed corporate structures have been shifting most of their spending towards national media over the same time. Consider that over the past ten years, national mass media owners’ advertising revenues grew by 33 percent while local mass media owners’ advertising revenues fell by 28 percent during the same time. Reasons unrelated to marketing efficiency usually have substantial sway in dictating changes in advertising spending choices across the economy.”

I believe effective media leverage is finding those media and those geographies where there are greater concentrations of product users that can be bought more efficiently—these are the key places to grow share. A simple example of this is the national election, where the Obama for America campaign advertised in only 44 TV markets (using Rentrak data).

The reality is that our country is becoming increasingly Balkanized, with different concentrations of cultures and economies in different parts of the country. The map below from Pew Research shows the importance of religion in people’s lives—the darker the color, the more important. The Northeast and West Coast are clearly different than the Deep South.

Map

This disparity extends to lifestyle and product usage as well. The map below from The Atlantic shows where the 1 percent is concentrated. Those products that cater to the more affluent (e.g. cars) need to consider the disparities in income that allow for people to purchase or lease cars.

Map 2Car manufactures have weaned themselves away from the incentive “drug” of the ‘90s causing an increase in the real price of automobiles adjusted for inflation as the chart from the Motoramic blog indicates.

US New Vehicle PricesThe increase in real car prices in the auto industry alone makes understanding the differences in sales across markets and within a medium even more important. Since Rentrak has the same measurement methodology across markets, we can provide comparable TV delivery indices across markets, unlike the sample-based folks who have different methods in different markets. Rentrak can also do this with actual auto sales information, as we have integrated Polk data across our footprint. In addition, within a market (and for the nation as a whole) we can indicate where to find the best TV leverage points for auto buyers. I leave you, dear reader, with a fun example of where to find the Cadillac buyer in Dallas in March in Early Fringe.

RentrakCadillac

I wasn’t a good media planner and I didn’t look at the all the networks and stations we report on. I used the major broadcast affiliates and a couple of cable networks. It isn’t just the news networks like CNBC and FNBC that index high against Cadillac buyers. Affiliates like CBS and MeTV also have high concentrations. Unfortunately, the few liberals in Dallas on MSNBC don’t seem to be lovers of Cadillacs.

Bottom line, Brian is right. Leverage in media can be found across markets, within markets, and across media. And Rentrak, with its Advanced Demographics can help with that leverage.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

The Power of Local TV

There are those in the advertising industry who scoff, nay bray, at the supposed decline of local TV stations. I don’t believe this to be true. The power of local TV is in its localness—its ability to connect and unite communities. The best example of this is the reaction of TV viewers to traumatic events. This blog talked about the reaction of viewers to Hurricane Sandy last fall where TV viewing increased during the storm in the East Coast markets. The same phenomenon happened during the horrible tornados in May in Oklahoma. The chart below shows what happened to TV viewing levels in Oklahoma City the day the storm hit, compared to the same day a week before.

Oklahoma City HUT% (Monday Prior to Tornado and Monday Day of Tornado)

Viewing levels on Monday, May 20, were higher starting around 8 a.m. and leapt up when the storm hit at approximately 3 p.m. (Note that Rentrak’s HUT includes viewing of multiple TV sets in the home, so our HUTs can rise over 100 percent.)

The aftermath of the storm continued to bring in high viewership as people tuned in to understand more about what had happened. The chart below shows viewing levels the day after the storm, along with levels for the same day of the week prior. Viewing was up throughout the day.Oklahoma City HUT% (Day After the Tornado and Week Before)

This increase in viewing went disproportionately to the broadcast stations in the market. As the table below shows, HUT went up the day of the storm by 18 percent on average. However, the share of viewing to the major broadcast affiliates went up by 58 percent.

Viewing Levels in Oklahoma City - May 2013

This is not to say that cable news viewing did not go up as well—it did. But local TV news is still the dominant place to which the public turns in times of crisis. Brevity being the soul of wit, I have not included the results for Wichita and Sherman. But the results are the same, increase in HUTs during the storm, and a disproportionate increase for broadcast stations. Please contact me if you wish to see that data.

As an aside, I believe that advertising is about story telling. Marketers are telling stories about their brands. And any storyteller wants to tell her story in a place where the listener is disposed to be trusting and attentive. Local TV clearly is that sort of place.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

The Upfront Season, Exact Commercial Ratings and the Power of Position

As the networks, advertisers and agencies start the annual waltz of the wallet known as the upfront, I thought it would make sense to take a look at some of the value that is delivered.

It is not a surprise that where an ad is placed has a large impact on how many people see it. As an example, I looked at 1,588 major quick service restaurant 30-second units, which ran from December 31, 2012 through February 24, 2013. The chart below shows the index of the Exact Commercial RatingTM to the telecast rating for the restaurant’s spots. (The index is the exact second rating for the ad divided by the telecast rating.) The live indices are the teal columns; the indices for the 3-day DVR audience are shown in orange.

ECR Index

So, while 93 percent of the live telecast audience on average watched the ad when it was the last ad prior to a program promotion, only 62.2 percent of the 3-day DVR audience did. In contrast, when the ad was the first paid ad after a program promotion, it actually did slightly better than the telecast average, but with the DVR, only 87.9 percent of those viewers saw the ad. Where an ad is positioned in a pod has an impact.

61 percent of the quick service restaurant’s ads ran in the middle of pods, which can be seen in the pie chart below. They did do well with the first position with 24 percent of ads, versus 15 percent, being in a last position.

Distribution of QSR Ad Copy by Position in Pod

There was also a difference by network. The table below shows the range of the average 3-day DVR ad index to telecast across the 40 networks, which the restaurant used. The index ranged from an 85 to 53.5. Networks were not identified since many factors could have impacted the scores, including daypart mix, position mix, average rating, genre, etc.

Range of Network 3 Day Ad Indices

In fact, I made several attempts to build sophisticated models to predict what the 3-Day DVR Index would be by including network, daypart, program rating, pod position, and percent of the program that was live. I failed.

Then I tried something simpler. I said to myself, what if each network had the same distribution of ads by pod position as the average network did? In short, if you truly created the same rotation across networks, what would happen to the indices? Now, I could only do this with the networks that had ads placed in each position, which cut the list down from 40 to 13 networks. The chart below shows the networks in teal with what their original average was across all ad positions; the orange line shows what happens when I weight averaged the results to reflect the distribution of units across all networks. With only one exception, all the network scores went up.

Range of 3 Day DVR Ad Index for Networks with QSR Ads in Each Pod Position

So, in other words, if you create a buy where the ads across networks are distributed in the same manner, the holding power of your ads won’t differ as much. A “fair” rotation works. But, paradoxically, an “ unfair” buy can work as well. If an advertiser decides to push for those first positions, more people will see their ads. And that push for first becomes an interesting item to negotiate. And only Rentrak, with its second-by-second Exact Commercial RatingsTM, can provide the granularity and stability to make that type of buy.

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In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Video On Demand – The Power of Pre-Roll

On Wednesday, March 20th, I gave a talk at ARF Re:think 2013 on video on demand. The following is an excerpt from my talk. Contact me at bruce.goerlich@rentrak.com if you would like the full presentation.

Television as medium has moved beyond fragmentation into granularity as programs are being carried on new platforms such as mobile, the Internet, and video on demand. Video on demand viewership has been growing at double-digit rates, with the largest portion of growth coming from “traditional” TV programs being placed by TV networks. However, there has been little understanding of how commercials perform in video on demand.

The value of advertising time in video on demand is immense, given that viewers have to be actively engaged to select the programs. Video on demand advertising is often structured with the first position, “the pre-roll,” starting before the program content. Rentrak, through its analysis, demonstrates that the “pre-roll” has a very high value. Rentrak’s original research shows much higher indices for ad viewership in the pre-roll position. The metric employed was the Ad Retention Index (ARI), which is the average audience during commercial minutes on video on demand divided by the entire program’s average audience (including ad minutes). The ARI is a concept similar to “C3” on linear TV. The pre-roll ARI for regular duration programs was a 122, and the average pre-roll short duration program was a 129. This high value of audience for pre-roll gives advertisers a unique opportunity to connect with engaged viewers. Rentrak is now also producing a monthly video on demand transparency report on ratings networks have on video on demand. (Details upon request!)

BACKGROUND ON VIDEO ON DEMAND

Currently, there are more than 53 million video on demand-enabled households with an average of two set-top boxes per household. More than 43 million set-top boxes access video on demand content each month.

Consumers who use this medium spend around 8.5 hours per month with video on demand content.

Free video on demand content represented 78 percent of all transactions in 2012. Free video on demand (which includes ad-supported content) is the fastest growing part of video on demand. From 2009 to 2012, free video on demand’s growth rate outpaced that of all video on demand by increasingly wider margins.

Growth Rates in Video On Demand Playtime 2009-2012
We are pleased to see free content coming to video on demand soon after live airings. Content owners are increasingly including linear ad loads in the first three days. Additionally, our research shows the majority of video on demand viewership of TV shows occurs 4+ days after air, presenting additional valuable advertising opportunities. Free on demand offers advertisers an opportunity since much of this content is now (or could be) advertising-supported. However, advertising results are not traditionally broken out. A group of networks approached Rentrak in the fall of 2011 asking for a study of advertising levels using set-top boxes where second-by-second ad detail could be identified.

We used a mathematical technique to identify where ads were located — essentially when there was a huge drop and return in audience. This is shown in the chart below.

Index of HH Audience at :30 Second IntervalsAll the video on demand long form programs had a downward-trending slope of viewership. This can be explained in large part by the fact that there is no subsequent program that follows, so there can be no audience flow “in” once the program starts. Also, therefore, the maximum size of the audience is at the start of program. That large “starting point” means that commercials in the pre-roll position will have the advantage of exposure to all of the program’s viewers. So even with trick play, the ARI for the pre-roll is a 103, while for entire program, the ARI was a 55.

For short-form programs (less than six minutes), we looked at the first 60 seconds to estimate ad position.

The bottom line for the analysis is below.

ARI Video On Demand ResultsWhen one considers that normal DVR playback ratings for commercials are in the 60 percent range, not only is the average video on demand ARI of 71 quite strong, but the pre-roll first position playback of more than 120 is fantastic. Video on demand is a medium that can and will work well for advertisers.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Political Fragmentation

One thing that has become clear from the recent election is that traditional outlets for reaching conservatives are not delivering what they used to deliver. The chart below shows the shift in viewership for “The O’Reilly Factor” since last October. The decline in total ratings was a .75, but for the core audience of conservative viewers (from Rentrak’s Political Segmentation Schema), the decline was even greater — a 1.6 rating drop. Ratings stabilized in January, but are still way off their pre-election high.

Shift in Live HH and Conservative Viewers to The O'Reilly Factor

“Hannity” shows the same pattern. Total ratings are down by .9 and the rating among core conservative viewers was down by around double — at a 1.8 decrease.

Shift in Live HH and Conservative Viewership for Hannity

Of course, just because conservatives are not watching the tried and true the way they used to does not mean they can’t be captured on TV. The chart below shows this for a sample of networks where large concentrations of conservatives can be found.

Index of Conservative ViewershipUnfortunately, the Republicans stuck to an old style type-buying pattern, using traditional demographics and sticking to a limited number of networks. Obama for America used a privacy-protected matching process to align their key segments with Rentrak viewer data. This enabled them to buy much deeper, going to around 60 networks. Rentrak went to the Republican side and made the same offer. We were turned down. The results were much more narrow with traditional buys going only 18 networks deep.

Marketers have often talked about fragmentation with traditional targets. Obama for America was smart enough to see it happening in the political arena. It’s up to the Republicans now to recognize the reality of political fragmentation or remain in the marketing world of 2004.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Get these kids out of the house! Send them to the movies!

First off – Happy New Year to all of you!

The sentiment in this blog’s title might resonate with a few of you after the recent break. But it does reflect a deeper reality. Media consumption does follow availability. When people (or children) have time to consume a particular medium, they are more likely to do so.

A good way to see the availability of children and college students to go to the movies is through Rentrak’s movie calendar. It shows the percentage of students in Kindergarten through 12th grade out of school each day, as well as the percentage of college students out of classes. As an example, the Monday through Friday national numbers for this past December are posted below. Rentrak clients can drill all the way down to local markets and even to school districts.

Kids Out of SchoolOkay, great, you say – but does it really mean anything? Are the little ones really zipping out to the movies if they aren’t busy hitting the books? Yes. But there are some good exceptions as well. And therefore, you don’t have to read any more.

If you are continuing to read, this is the detailed setup – good for the research geeks! Skip over the next paragraph if you need to spare brain cells.

In order to answer the question of the relationship between being in school and movie box office results, I took the percentage of children and college students out of school for each day in June 2011 and June 2012. I then compared those percentages with average daily ticket sales revenue per movie. (I did the calculation on a per movie basis to control for the differences in the number of movie releases each week.) I broke each week into three parts, to reflect how movie going and lifestyle patterns change: Monday through Thursday has fewer movie releases and fewer “nights out,” Friday is a big movie release day, and on Saturday/Sunday, most people have more free time. In order to make the data easier to see graphically, I used weekly averages. I did the same work for December 2011 and the first week of December 2012.

Let’s look at some of the summer results first. Each point in the chart below represents the average tickets sales for a Monday through Thursday in June on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis shows the percentage of school kids out of class. As more kids are out of school, the average daily ticket sales per movie goes up, from a low of less than $150,000 when approximately 45% of kids are out, to a high of $450,000. There is a clear step function as the number of children out crosses the 90% mark.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket Sales

The pattern continues when you look at Fridays for college students even though the percentage of college students out starts at a much higher level as shown in the next chart.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket Sales

Interestingly, this pattern is not clearly as strong when looking at just the weekend days of Saturday and Sunday. As the chart below shows, weekend dollars per film don’t have as strong a relationship with schools being out. And when you think about it, the answer is pretty simple. Kids aren’t usually in classes on weekends!

Average Per Movie Daily Ticket Sales Sat/Sun

The relationships between weekday movie sales and school attendance in December are not dissimilar to the summer pattern. In December, for Mondays through Thursdays, as more kids are out of school, ticket sales go up.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket SalesOf course, the rise in ticket sales per movie isn’t just driven by the number of kids. The types of movies in the market vary by week. The studios are making sure that “tent pole” releases are in the market when there are more people available. This is much like TV programs where the higher product value TV shows air in primetime when more people are available and more ad dollars can be captured.

I think the impact of movie releases can be seen in the winter Saturday and Sunday numbers. There are a lot more powerful movies out over the weekends right next to Christmas and Thanksgiving, where the revenue dichotomy with the other weekends is quite strong.

Average Daily Per Movie Ticket SalesAnd of course, there are exceptions to the rule. There are movies released when children are in school which do quite well (as the table below shows).

Exceptions to the Rule

So I’m going to amend my earlier comment (tough luck on those who didn’t read all the way through): Audience availability does increase viewing, but the quality of the inventory has an impact as well. Smart movie marketers know how to sell both when the audience is fully available, and when homework might still be on their minds!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Political Ratings – A Nation Divided?

As we head to the closing weeks of the election season, I’d like to highlight the relationship between political orientation and TV program selection. As you fans of this blog know, Rentrak has a political segmentation. We based it on looking at actual program viewership, with the anchors of the “news” networks of MSNBC and Fox being the left and right ends of the spectrum. Based on hours of viewership, we can divide our millions of homes along a spectrum of “low involvement” to “very conservative.”

If we look at the two poles of “any liberal” and “any conservative” we get, at first glance, a very polarized viewing community as the graph below shows. The horizontal axis is the index of each program for conservative viewers compared to the average for over 7,500 prime time programs across 230 networks in September. The vertical axis is the index of liberals for those same programs. We have removed all programs from the news networks of MSNBC, Fox, PBS and CNN. In addition, in order to be clear with the graphs, we are only showing the top 750 programs, ones that have a .3 rating or higher.

It really does seem like a divided country. There aren’t many shows that are in the upper right hand quadrant appealing to both liberals and conservatives, and there aren’t many shows in the lower left hand quadrant, shows that aren’t above average for either liberals or conservatives.  It looks like a pretty tight line with shows having either a liberal or conservative skew.

Okay, so what is each side watching that the other isn’t? Let’s dive into the liberals first. (No bias intended here!) The graph below “blows” up the liberal quadrant, the upper left from the first graph. We’ve only included the programs that have greater than a 110 index for liberals, and less than a 90 index for conservatives. The size of each point reflects its total U.S. rating: bigger points have higher ratings. I’ve also called out a few programs by labeling them and coloring them red. (To reflect the “red, white & blue” of our nation’s flag, not for any partisan comment!)

The theme for liberal shows is comedy, Hispanic programming, adult oriented cartoons and sitcoms. There isn’t a cop show or a western in the bunch!

It looks very different when you apply the same filters, but this time just look at the conservative quadrant (the lower right quad from the original graph), as shown below. Here we have detective shows, older dramas, NASCAR and religious programs popping up.

So are we doomed to a country where there isn’t a common cultural heritage (yes, TV is culture!)?  There is hope. A lot of TV does sit in the middle, not quite skewing overly conservative and not quite skewing overly liberal. When we look at those shows in the middle, with and index of between 90 and 110 for liberals and conservatives, you get quite a healthy list of shows. The graph below takes the shows right from the middle section of the first quad map.

The Simpsons skews a bit liberal, but it doesn’t lose too many conservatives. Vegas and Survivor: Philippines do a bit better with conservatives, but liberals aren’t running screaming out of the room. And the highly rated shows like Sunday Night Football and Dancing with the Stars are getting both Donkeys and Elephants.

Three lessons here, I think: 1) If you want to, target and reach on a side of the political fence on a concentration basis. (E.g. just talk to the political beast you want to talk to.) 2) You can also talk to both sides at once in TV, and talk to a lot of them at the same time. 3) Knowing which programs to pick for concentration or conciliation isn’t that simple. It requires a finely tuned segmentation tool. And Rentrak has it.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

Sticks and Stones

One thing I love about TV (and there are lot of things besides just veg’ing out in front of one, which I highly recommend), is all the ways it can deliver value to marketers beyond just audience levels. A couple of ways it can do this are captured in Rentrak’s weekly release with Bluefin Labs on Stickiness and Social Media. (Hence the allusion in this blog’s title for those not quick of mind – “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.”)

Stickiness equals engagement. And engagement delivers more impact for advertisers. Stickiness is a measurement of time spent viewing. The value of time spent viewing a program for an advertiser is that the more time a person chooses to spend with the program, the more impactful the ads are in that program (see footnote for more on this). Because the Stickiness Index is based on time spent, and the range of most programs is up to 180 minutes, its indices do not go beyond that.

The Social Media Index measures chatter about TV telecasts. Chatter equals “what’s remarkable” – quite literally, these are the TV episodes and events that evoke remarks from the audience. The Social Media Index is important for advertisers who want to be topical. Bluefin Labs tracks comments made on Twitter and public Facebook accounts about TV programs within +/- 3 hours of the telecast airing window. Programs that generate the most social media comments will have a higher Social Media Index rating. The Social Media Index covers a range from 0 to many thousands; its value indicates the amount of social media “chatter” that a given TV show is generating relative to all the shows that were discussed via social media.

So here we have two metrics, involvement and remarkability. How do these metrics relate to each other? To overall ratings? To DVR recording? In short, how can these be leveraged? To help look at this, we went over 12 weeks of our summer Engagement reports.

In terms of the traditional metrics of viewership, ratings and DVR lift, the Bluefin Labs Social Media Index doesn’t connect in a simplistic way with ratings and DVR playback. (In each chart, a dot is a program, with the vertical axis being the Bluefin Labs Social Media Index, and the horizontal axis being either DVR playback lift, or ratings. Some programs are labeled so I can hammer home my points.)

The chart below doesn’t show much more social chatter as DVR playback increases. Why is this? Well the most talked about programs were the Olympics and NBA Finals, with one special event. And sports (and other live events), aren’t recorded and played back at high levels. (“Don’t tell me what happened!”) But sports are talked about. Consumers tend to tweet about TV when they are watching live. When watching live, people tweet because they can have a shared TV experience with others; the TV content “syncs” everyone. When consumers watch via DVR, they tend not to tweet because there’s no notion of the shared experience.

When we look at ratings and social media chatter, the same phenomenon continues. There is a bit of step function and the high-rated events just pop out in terms of “internet water cooler chatter.”

The multiple leverage value of sporting events continues when we look at the interaction of Rentrak’s Stickiness and Bluefin Labs’ Social Media Index.

We can see program involvement scoring high with these mega sports events, both in terms of Engagement – eyes staying on the screen – and the Social Media Index – talking about the game around the virtual water cooler. When you throw in the high ratings, no wonder sports events can get those high CPM’s.

Just a final note – we will go back in later this quarter to do a special look at these metrics for new season programs. The Olympics and the NBA were so strong this summer, they swamped out a detailed look at the power of engagement and chat on regular series – where a lot of action happens!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


Footnote: This goes back to work done at Zenith Optimedia where the agency showed that if one person chose to watch only the first 15 minutes of a program, and a second person watched the full 30 minutes of the program, and both were asked to recall an advertisement which ran in the first 15 minutes, the second persons’ recall of the ad was much higher.