Social Media & Television: Which Cable Programs Get the Buzz?

“Happy talk, keep talking happy talk.
Talk about things you’d like to do.
You gotta have a dream. If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”

“South Pacific” – Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.


As reported in my May 19 blog post, Rentrak has been partnering with social media tracking companies over the past several years and publishing a weekly “TV Engagement” or “Stickiness” report that covers ad-supported primetime programs. In that blog, I talked about the level of social media chatter about network TV shows in Prime.

That blog pointed out that if an advertiser is looking for broadcast network Prime shows that are the “crème de la crème” in generating buzz, they should look to “Awards” and “Sports” first. “Drama,” “Nighttime Soaps” and “Teen-Oriented” programs also get a lot of talk. It is interesting to note that this reflects the conventional wisdom of what shows used to get talked about the morning after they aired around the water cooler or in the halls of high school.

As mentioned before, in 2013, we partnered for most of the year with Trendrr, and then later with General Sentiment, to create our weekly reports on the most “buzzed” about ad-supported Primetime broadcast network and cable TV programs. The two companies have different ways of scoring social media chatter about TV shows, so to make a fair comparison for the whole year, I averaged each service’s score and indexed their reported programs to their own average. So what you will see in the following charts are program counts for both services for the entirety of 2013, as well as the average indices by genre for both services.

In this blog, I will focus just on ad-supported cable shows in Prime. It is very important to note that all of these ad-supported Prime cable shows were the most talked about ad-supported Prime cable shows during the week in which they aired. An index above 100 just means that, within the most talked about ad-supported Prime cable shows, the show was even more talked aboutAn index below 100 means that, within the most talked about ad-supported Prime shows, this show was less talked about.

So let’s look first at the volume of chatter by program genre for ad-supported cable Prime shows in 2013. As before, I’ve done my own personal classification here (in part to protect the innocent), but also to reflect the nuances of social media buzz about TV programs.

# of Cable Shows by Genre

The chart above shows the number of times a show in this genre appeared in our weekly list for ad-supported cable Prime top 20 most talked about shows in 2013. It is a count of occurrences on our weekly list. The greatest number of talked about ad-supported cable Prime shows in 2013 were in the “Reality” genre, followed by “Drama,” “Sports” and “Comedy.” “Drama,” “Reality” and “Comedy” also were often talked about for broadcast Prime as was pointed out in the May 19 blog. However, “Competition” (e.g. “So You Think You Can Dance”) was number the number one genre for the broadcast networks, but was number six for cable.

The chart below looks at the average index of the shows in the genre compared to the average of all talked about shows over 2013 in ad-supported cable Prime. As in broadcast Prime, Award shows on ad-supported cable networks are the most talked about programming. The high score for awards shows in cable is due to not only the basic human appeal of talking about winners (and losers) but also to the fact that cable awards shows are geared to younger viewers (e.g. music awards) who are more likely to be chatting with each other.

Average Genre Index

So “the end is our beginning” as T.S. Eliot said. What generates conversation about TV shows? What has always generated conversation: shows with glamorous stars, shows with an edge of competition with winners and losers, shows with dramatic plot twists, shows that really make you laugh, and shows that have a particular appeal to the young. This holds true across broadcast and cable.


“It might be a fight like you see on the screen,
A swain getting slain for the love of a queen,
Some great Shakespearean scene,
Where a ghost and a prince meet,
And everyone ends in mincemeat. 

A clown with his pants falling down,
Or the dance that’s a dream of romance,
Or the scene where the villain is mean.
That’s entertainment!”

“That’s Entertainment!” – Music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz.

The Power of Video on Demand

Here’s a quick little blog for the fan base about how Video on Demand (VOD) can be an effective advertising tool.

In this case, I am talking about networks advertising themselves (e.g. using promos to get tune-ins). Rentrak does a fair amount of work on the effectiveness of promos, which is how many people “convert” to viewing a show when they see a promo for it.

Now turning to VOD, one nice thing about the millions of return path TVs Rentrak has is our ability to look in detail at TV viewing across linear (that’s the lingo for plain old programming) TV and VOD. We can look at duplication of viewership. So we can see what happens when a network runs a “teaser” for a new show on VOD, and then see how many tune into the program on linear TV. Guess what? We see that VOD teasers for new programs have a higher conversion rate than traditional promos.

Bruce Blog Chart

Now these aren’t controlled experiments, neither are they the same shows, so fellow research nerds don’t give me a hard time!

But these results give an indication that those people who chose to watch VOD are more involved. It requires positive action to select and view the VOD teaser. And if the teaser is good enough, it does have the power to get people to take subsequent action and watch the full program. Bottom line, VOD involves and gives power to the viewer, which is the new world of marketing. Promos, while effective, exist in the older model of “pushing” at the consumer. VOD is the world of tomorrow’s marketing, today.

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.

Social Media & Television: Which Programs Get the Buzz?

As Oscar Wilde said: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Rentrak has been partnering with social media tracking companies over the past several years and publishing a weekly “TV engagement” or “stickiness” report that covers ad-supported primetime programs. I recently wrote about “stickiness,” our internal measure of engagement (see my earlier post, “What’s Engaging about TV?”). I now would like to turn to the level of social media chatter about TV shows—a metric that can also be seen as an engagement measure. Both “stickiness” and a social media index are covered in our free weekly report. You can contact me at bruce.goerlich@rentrak.com to get your own weekly copy.

In 2013, we partnered for most of the year with Trendrr, and then later with General Sentiment, to create our weekly reports on the most “buzzed” about ad-supported primetime broadcast network and cable TV programs. The two companies have different ways of scoring social media chatter about TV shows, so to make a fair comparison for the whole year, I averaged each service’s score and indexed their reported programs to their own average. So what you will see in the following charts are program counts for both services for the entirety of 2013, as well as the average indices by program type for both services. In this blog, I will focus just on broadcast prime network shows. Primetime cable shows will follow in the next blog. It is very important to note that all of these broadcast shows were the most talked about broadcast shows during the week in which they aired. An index above 100 just means that, within the most talked about broadcast prime shows, the show was even more talked about. An index below 100 means that, within the most talked about broadcast prime shows, this show was less talked about.

So let’s look first at the volume of chatter by program genre for broadcast network shows in 2013. I’ve done my own personal classification here (in part to protect the innocent), but also to reflect the nuances of social media buzz about TV programs.

GoerlichBlog-NumberofShowsByGenre

The highest number of talked about Broadcast Prime shows in 2013 were in the “Competition” genre, which includes singing and dancing competitions, as well as beauty and modeling contests. The “Drama” category came next, which includes a whole slew of sub-genres like “Detective/Mystery,” “Fantasy,” “Medical” and “Nighttime Soap Operas.” “Reality” was a distant third, followed by “Comedy,” “Sports” and “Awards.”

However, the volume of social media buzz looks very different by genre, as the chart below shows.Average Genre Index

“Awards” and “Sports” are far and away the most buzzworthy categories in Broadcast Prime. People like to talk about who won the Academy Awards, who won the People’s Choice awards and so on. And sports have been talked about since the days of boat racing in ancient Egypt along the Nile. Social media has just enhanced our ability to talk about things we like to talk about. Again, I want to emphasize that the shows in the other genres were all highly talked about, just not as talked about as awards and sports shows.

So let’s break down two genres a bit more: “Drama” and “Competition.” As mentioned above, there are several sub-Genres within “Drama.” The chart below illustrates the number of mentions of these in our 2013 reports.

GoerlichBlog-DramaShowsBySub-Genre
There were a lot of teen-oriented dramas talked about in 2013. These are shows like “The Carrie Diaries”, “Glee” and the “Vampire Chronicles.” “Detective/Mystery” was next with shows like “NCIS,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “Castle.” “Medical” includes shows like “Bones,” “Gray’s Anatomy” and “Rookie Blue.” “Fantasy” has shows like “Sleepy Hollow,” “Once Upon a Time” and “Under the Dome.” “Nighttime Soaps” include “Revenge,” “Nashville” and “Scandal.” “Action” has shows like “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and “Revolution.”

Again, the picture changes when we look at the average index for these sub-genres. “Broadcast Nighttime Soaps” have the highest average indices in the “Drama” genre. The plot twists and cliffhangers in these shows are made for social media buzz. And “Teen” shows come next. In my youth, it was my teenage sister talking on her “princess phone” about “The Monkees.” Now it is tweets and posts from Millennials.

GoerlichBlog-AverageSubGenreIndex
We can just briefly recap the “Competition” genre. Over 90 percent of the shows were the singing/dancing competitions like “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” These shows had an average index of 91.

So in summary, if an advertiser is looking for broadcast network prime shows that are the “crème de la crème” in generating buzz, they should look to “Awards” and “Sports” first. “Competition,” “Drama,” “Nighttime Soaps” and “Teen-Oriented” programs also get a lot of talk.

It is interesting to note that this reflects the “conventional wisdom” of the broadcast era gone by. It was the “office water cooler” where people talked about special events on TV and the “big game.” Teens talked with each other a lot, on the phone, or in parking lot of the drive-through about who on TV was cute and who was bad.

The technology has changed and broadened our ability to talk with each other, but the basic human interest in interesting, exciting and relevant stories remains.

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 Transformation of Video on Demand

Let’s take a break from “engagement” to talk about another interesting aspect of television—how Video on Demand (VOD) is changing. Rentrak has published a “State of VOD: Trend Report” for several years now. (You can order a copy at Rentrak.com/SVOD.) One thing that clearly stands out in this year’s report is that popular TV programs are becoming the mainstay of VOD.

First, a little explanation of the jargon (every industry has to have its own). “Subscription Video on Demand” (SVOD) refers to On Demand content from pay cable services such as HBO, Showtime, Epix, etc. Most operators (or in the true inside lingo: Multichannel Video Programming Distributors or MVPDs) give pay cable channel subscribers the ability to watch their movies and programs On Demand, so a subscriber can catch “True Detective” on HBO On Demand, or “Hunger Games” on Epix On Demand.

“Transactional on Demand” (TOD) refers to movies or events paid for by a household. As an example, a MVPD will make a movie like “Frozen” available On Demand several months after it has been in the theaters. The viewer then has to pay to watch the movie (usually within a window of 24 hours after ordering). TOD content is really what the MVPDs thought VOD was going to be all about— generating income from movies, events… and porn (oops, make that “Adult Content”).

There is also the “TV Entertainment” category. This category consists of the most popular TV shows, across all dayparts, which broadcast and cable networks make available On Demand, including current (and sometimes past) series or seasons.

Finally, there is all other “Free on Demand” (FOD) content, which refers to all other free programs, including some specifically made to air On Demand, Music on Demand, and a variety of other niche programs.

So with the lingo under our belts, let’s go back to the days of yesteryear (2010) and see what VOD looked like then. The chart below shows the share of viewing hours accounted for by each type of VOD described above in 2010.

VOD-2010

In 2010, “Subscription Video on Demand” had the largest share of viewing hours, followed closely by “Other Free VOD.” “TV Entertainment” was a distant third, and Transactional on Demand trailed in fourth place.

Now, let’s shoot forward to last year, to see a drastically changed picture. Again, we are looking at share of viewing hours by type of VOD format, this time in 2013.

VOD-2013

There is a dramatic change. The cable and broadcast network’s “TV Entertainment” category is now number one, at 35% share of hours. “Other Free VOD” edges out “Subscription Video on Demand” by a hair, and “Transactional on Demand” remains in fourth place, slipping to only 10% of hours.

Share is one thing, but one also needs to consider the absolute growth in VOD. The total number of VOD hours watched was 3.6 billion in 2010 growing to 4.5 billion in 2013, an overall growth rate of 25%. But that growth rate was by no means even as indicated in the chart below, which lays out the percentage growth in hours by type of VOD format.

VOD-GrowthDecline

You can see that the popular shows in “TV Entertainment” grew by over 120%. “Other Free VOD” grew by 10% while time spent viewing “TOD” and “SVOD” fell in the 3% range. However, Rentrak’s Digital Download Industry Service reports that revenue for OTT movies (purchased) has grown by 124% since 2010. So demand to watch movies at home has not fallen, rather the supply has grown with OTT options.

Why has viewing of “TV Entertainment” grown so much? Again, supply is a big factor. In the fall of 2013, the networks and MVPDs worked together to make available more than the traditional four most recent episodes of popular series to each household. When more programming options are available, the audience will come. Or as Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber, said in response to the question, “Why do you rob banks?”: “Because that is where the money is.”

And advertisers are starting to go where the audience is. Rentrak estimates that there is a potential multi-billion dollar business in VOD advertising, just with digitally inserted pre-roll ads. Those and other details can be found in the full “State of VOD: Trend Report 2013,” which you can learn more about by clicking here.

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.

What’s Engaging about Cable?

Well, I won’t have done too badly this Lent. I will have posted two blogs.

As promised, I am continuing to write about TV “engagement.” In the last blog, I focused on broadcast TV programs. In this piece, I look at ad-supported cable network programs. As I said before, the definition of “engagement” deals with time spent viewing, or “stickiness.” Rentrak looks at the average percentage of a program watched. This form of “engagement” is good, because studies have shown that if two people watch a half hour program that has an ad in the first 15 minutes, if one person just watches the first 15 minutes, and the other watches the full half hour, the half hour viewer is much more likely to recall the ad. Programs with audiences that “stick to them” give a positive benefit to their advertisers.

I looked at data from Rentrak’s weekly reports on “engagement” for 2013. You should also know that Multichannel News is now publishing our reports in advance in their print edition. (Visit Multichannel.com to get more information.) And you can send me an email at bruce.goerlich@rentrak.com if you want to get on the Rentrak mailing list.

Like in my broadcast post, I first took a look at the distribution of shows by genre.

Percentage of Ad-Supported Cable Shows

 

As with broadcast, Drama and Reality genres dominate the most engaged programs. However, cable’s share of top engaged Dramas is 43%, compared to broadcast’s 67%. What makes up the difference in cable? Ad-supported cable reality shows are at 34% compared to 16% on broadcast. (Thank you, “Basketball Wives,” “Braxton Family Values,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Project Runway,” etc.).

Another big difference with ad-supported cable consists of the importance of the Movie and Mini-Series categories. These genres still show up on cable, and viewers like and are engaged with them. Many of these are originals, as well as old favorites.

One way that broadcast and cable programs are exactly alike is that there is no relationship between the rating and “engagement”/”stickiness.” The chart below takes all the ad-supported cable shows in our 2013 reports and plots them on the vertical axis for “stickiness,” and on the horizontal for ratings rank. No relationship exists. A low rated program can be very engaging.

Comparison of Stickiness & Ratings for Ad-Supported Cable Networks

And, as with Broadcast, this additional leverage from looking at a measure of “engagement” is a good thing. Both sides of the desk can use the leverage when it serves their interest.

Next up, what you didn’t know about the State of Video on Demand.

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.

What’s Engaging about TV Programs?

It’s been a busy couple of months, and I haven’t had a chance to write. So, as part of my Lenten discipline, I promise more timely blogs. I’m going to devote the next couple to looking at “engagement” in national TV programs.

“Engagement” is one of those words like “freedom.” Everybody is for it, everybody thinks it’s good, but there isn’t a single definition that everybody agrees on. At Rentrak we have two measures for “engagement.” The first one, which this piece is based on, deals with time spent viewing, or “stickiness.” That is, what is the average percentage of a program that is watched? This form of “engagement” is good, because studies have shown that if two people watch a half hour program that has an ad in the first 15 minutes, if one person just watches the first 15 minutes, and the other watches the full half hour, the half hour viewer is much more likely to recall the ad. (Frank Harrison at Zenith-Optimedia did some very good work in this area.) Therefore, programs with audiences that “stick to them” give a positive benefit to their advertisers.

I looked at Rentrak’s weekly reports on “engagement” for 2013 for both broadcast and cable programs. (Contact me if you want to get on the mailing list.) In this post, I am going to concentrate on broadcast. In the next blog, I’ll move on to cable, and then on to our second definition of “engagement” which involves social media.

A couple of interesting things pop out when we look at the “stickiest” shows for 2013, as the chart below shows.

Rentrak Stickines Index

First off, dramas are the kings of “stickiness.”* From cop shows to novellas, the audience stays throughout them. Over two thirds of the most engaging shows last year were dramas, where people like to stay around and see what happens. Storytelling goes back to our ancestral roots when we huddled around the fire in caves while the Shaman told tales of the battles between good and evil. And today, dramas provide a real benefit to advertisers.

Reality shows are second (please forgive me network clients), but they really are just dramas done on the cheap. Contests, where viewers want to find out who wins, are third, and the same phenomenon follows for sports. Although awards shows are not often in the top rankings, which is in large part because there aren’t that many of them in broadcast. We do know, however, that the big ones are there: “The Academy Awards,” “The Golden Globes,” “The Grammy Awards,” etc.

Another interesting fact about “stickiness” is the high proportion of Hispanic network programs that show up. Overall, 32 percent of the broadcast programs that showed up were Hispanic, but that percentage differed by genre as the graph below demonstrates.

Rentrak Stickiness Index

The categories where Hispanic programs did especially well were News, Review (e.g. movie and TV show reviews), Talk Shows, Variety and Awards shows. It should also be noted that in the largest “stickiness” category of dramas, 34% were Hispanic programs; the novellas hold their audience.

One final note, there is no direct relationship between “stickiness” and program rating. Rentrak’s weekly top “stickiness” report looks at the top 20 “stickiest” broadcast shows. Across the year, only 46 percent of the top 20 “stickiest” shows were also in the top 20 highest rated shows of that week. In short, a high rating does not guarantee a high level of “stickiness,” and a high level of “stickiness” doesn’t guarantee a high rating.

And I think that is a good thing. Both networks and advertisers need more than one metric to value a program. Sheer audience level is good, but so is a measure of “engagement.” Both sides can use these as leverage points in negotiations. And finding leverage is what media is all about.

Soon to follow will be a look at “stickiness” and cable programs.

_ _

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 technical level of “stickiness” is determined by level of variance between average percentage viewed of the telecast to that of all telecasts of the same duration during Monday-Saturday primetime (8-11 p.m.) and Sunday primetime (7-11 p.m.).

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.