Report: Down broadcast network ratings concerning

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In a Bear Sterns report issued on broadcast network TV ratings, the company noted that ratings complexity “reigns in” the new broadcast season. As well, they’re getting a bit concerned about the ratings shortfalls and unavailable makegood inventory out there.


Excerpts:

“In the 2007-2008 Broadcast Season, the combination of five ratings streams [(L)ive program; L+Same Day; L+3 Program; L+3 Commercial, Live +7 Program] and many different age, gender and ethnic demos combine for innumerable sets of available ratings data. And different ratings series are released at different times! Ratings complexity reigns in the new broadcast season.

"Big Four" Broadcast Network TV STD C3 Ratings (2007-2008 Ad Currency) are down 12%-13% from Live Program Ratings (2006-2007 Ad Currency). The decline reflects a) 1.5% higher PUT levels, b) estimated 5% lower Live+3 Day program viewing, c) 6% lower live commercial viewing relative to program viewing and d) 13% higher incremental DVR audience offset by lower DVR commercial viewing (43%) during playback.

Interestingly, while broadcast nets sell “C3”, we believe local TV stations are selling Live/Live+7 day program ratings. That’s complex. These ratings look as good/better than C3. Stations’ local news/syndicated product are a likely attractive ratings substitute for network ratings shortfalls.
While C3 ratings are down 13% through week 8, the impact to the ad market is not fully understood; scatter pricing is still strong, but ad deficiency units for certain broadcast nets (not Fox) could become a major factor. However, advertisers who are looking to obtain proper advertising demo “weights” are struggling to do so without broadcast network TV.  Three “ratings beneficiaries” could emerge; local TV (not selling C3; have local news; fill-in gross ratings points deficiencies from the broadcast networks), cable nets (better ratings picture, more ad inventory than broadcast nets) and syndication (less likely to be DVRed and more stable ratings).  Of course, the writers’ strike would make the ratings issue even more complex.”

TVBR observation: Actually, in the short term, the major cable nets are in a bit of an inventory squeeze right now as well. Overall, the inability of network primetime to deliver on ratings guarantees (exc. Fox) is sending ad dollars all over the place to deliver the numbers for their clients—this is for Live and delayed viewing. If the trend continues, with the WGA strike destroying midseason and possibly next year’s upfront, we may have to call this year the watershed that sent advertisers elsewhere—and kept many of them there. Nonetheless, we have likely seen the last of the record-breaking upfronts for network television. The eyes just aren’t there anymore. Fragmentation from cable nets, VOD and online has really taken hold.


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.