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.

Video On Demand: How to Create an Advertising Marketplace

Video On Demand (VOD), viewed via one’s cable or satellite box, is a rapidly growing medium, particularly for programming from broadcast and cable networks called Free On Demand or FOD for short. Rentrak is the industry’s source for FOD information. For YTD 2013, there were more than 9 billion total VOD viewing occasions (e.g. clicking the button to watch VOD) and 78 percent of those were for FOD. While VOD in total grew 30 percent between 2009 and 2013, FOD grew by 70 percent. Rentrak performed research indicating that a pre-roll ad in FOD has about a 120 index to the program rating. FOD viewers are also engaged since they are making a very specific and deliberate action to select and watch a show.

The largest part of FOD now consists of programs from the major broadcast and cable networks. Some of these content providers are now porting over the same ads that ran when the shows aired on regular or “linear” TV. Some are switching the ads out after four days to fit the traditional “C3” model. The content providers realize that over 78 percent of viewing to major broadcast and cable network shows happens after three days, so there is value in that ad inventory after four days, whether or not the ad copy is the same.

So why isn’t FOD programming chock full of ads?

Some of the reason has been technical. There was not an easy way to insert specific ads into FOD programs; it was akin to the old fashioned magazine business where the copy had to be ready two months prior to print. With digital ad insertion, and other technological fixes that problem has been significantly (but not completely) overcome.

But there is a deeper reason for the failure for advertising to take off. It goes back to the start of VOD reporting over eight years ago. Rentrak, with its history of managing and integrating massive amounts of data through its movie and DVD reporting services, with user-friendly systems that generate insights, became the operators’ choice to provide measurement. Rentrak’s measurement is a complete census. Every transaction/order from every provider of VOD in the United States is captured.

At the time of the creation of VOD, the cable operators thought that the bulk of VOD would be consumers ordering and paying for movies (both major studio releases as well as adult films). They also thought that consumers would like to be able to see regular TV programs when they wanted to, akin to what DVRs can do.

And at that time, the satellite companies could not deliver VOD, so the cable operators also thought that offering VOD would be a way to help hold on to customers. So the operators asked the broadcast and cable networks if program content could be loaded up to create FOD. The content providers agreed, but they had concerns about cannibalization of the audience from the main linear TV platform, as well as not having full strategies in place on how to generate revenue via advertising. The agreements became that a cable network could see its own shows (e.g. A&E can see A&E across all operators), or an individual cable operator could see how shows did within its own footprint (e.g. Time Warner can see how NBC and CBS perform within Time Warner’s footprint), but that was the extent of the transparency. Each “side” could see its own numbers, but the complete picture could not be revealed. In short, Rentrak’s census-level measurement was put into a straightjacket; only limited slices of the data could be shared with limited parties.

As anyone who has taken Economics 101 knows, for a marketplace to exist there has to be transparency. Right now, advertisers who want to see how programs might perform on VOD have to go ask each network for their numbers. In a world of shrinking advertising staffs, and the push to programmatic buying, there is not much willingness to enact business by making tons of phone calls and cobbling together numbers in Excel spreadsheets.

Therefore, transparency is needed. There has to be the full reporting of VOD programs by title in detail for C3 and up to 28-day levels. Only Rentrak with its census-based measurement can provide these numbers in a granular and stable manner. We are moving in this direction. Over 60 cable networks now allow us to produce a report showing monthly average transactions. (For insight into what that report can provide, check out my last blog. To order the report, contact Gordon Jones at Gordon.Jones@rentrak.com). And now we have a monthly series-level report for eight participating cable networks. These series-level FOD metrics now feed into our Total TV Audience report.

So, if a true ad marketplace in FOD is going to be created, full transparency must happen. I urge all the readers of this article who want to use the huge potential of VOD for advertising to contact their sales reps—no, go higher, and contact the sales heads of the networks you do business with and demand, “I want my FOD! Set Rentrak free!”

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.

Viewer as Target — How Some Ancient TV History Might Help Networks Today

Okay, I am not getting desperate for blog topics! I first wrote this over three years ago, and when I was reading recently about the second planned departure of Jay Leno from “The Tonight Show,” I thought it was worth a look back at what happened to NBC the last time he left and moved to the 10 p.m. Monday through Friday time slot. Rentrak now has a much bigger footprint, more operators, and a more sophisticated projection system, but I think the basics still ring true.

MY PREVIOUS ANALYSIS

What were the underlying dynamics of the disappearing viewers that NBC suffered Monday through Friday at 10 p.m. when Leno was on? Rentrak, through its analysis of hundreds of thousands of households, has determined that NBC suffered a double whammy. (Please note — we now track more than 11 million homes.) First, heavy viewers watched a lot less of the network. And second, medium and light viewers to the network turned away in droves. Where did the viewers go? The biggest beneficiary in terms of stealing away NBC viewers was ESPN.

Using the Rentrak TV Essentials system, Rentrak statisticians pulled out 353,000 households that watched NBC Monday through Friday from 10 to 11 p.m. in October 2008, and then compared those same homes’ viewing patterns to NBC in the same time period in October 2009. In short, Rentrak looked at the viewing of the same NBC viewers for the Monday through Friday at 10 p.m. time slot across two years.

What happened? First, the average number of hours NBC viewers watched Monday through Friday from 10 to 11 p.m. dropped off, driven by heavy viewers, who fell off by almost two hours.

Chart 1While there was a slight uptick in hours watched by medium and light viewers, the actual number of those viewers fell dramatically (as shown below). The number of heavy NBC viewers fell by only 10 percent, while the number of medium and light viewers fell by 24 percent and 30 percent respectively.

Chart 2Where did the viewers go? The biggest overall beneficiary was ESPN, which got 28 percent more NBC viewers in October 2009 than in October 2008. Fox came in second with 20 percent (perhaps another reason why they are leaking talks about stealing Conan away). As reported in the trade press, TBS also did well, increasing reach among NBC viewers by 17 percent. The complete list of top 10 gainers is shown below.

Chart 3BACK TO THE PRESENT

I know it helps network programmers to understand what their heavy, medium, and light viewers contribute, and what other programs those viewers are watching. If one goal of today’s CEO is customer retention, understanding what your best customer might do is a good idea. And Rentrak, with its millions of homes and TVs, can make that kind of learning possible.

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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.

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.

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.

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.