Summer originals boost fall promos

Aug 19, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NBC and Fox are seeing the early benefits of having more original programming on their summer schedules: Awareness levels for many of their new fall shows are on par with awareness levels for spinoffs with built-in brand recognition.
Electronic Media obtained from a senior network executive a copy of the results of a telephone survey that was jointly commissioned by the broadcast networks, other than UPN, to study awareness of their new fall programming.
The national survey, conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide, polled just over 520 respondents between the ages of 18 and 49 between July 8 and Aug. 11.
The latest weekly data on awareness showed that nothing beats built-in brand recognition, with spinoffs and revivals pulling the highest numbers. CBS’s “CSI: Miami” topped the list with 46 percent of adults 18 to 49 aware of the title, followed by UPN’s “Twilight Zone” with 37 percent and ABC’s “Dinotopia” with 35 percent. The WB’s “Family Affair” remake also scored high with 30 percent.
“Spinoffs always have built-in awareness, but having more original series and brand-recognizable dramas in repeats certainly helps the awareness levels for our new shows coming in,” said another senior network executive, who requested anonymity. The executive described the survey as “largely a measuring stick, but nothing whatsoever reflecting an actual projection” of how the new shows will actually fare in the ratings next season.
NBC and Fox, who aggressively scheduled up to 40 percent of their current summer schedules with original programming, giving them a stronger promotional platform, have seen the overall awareness of incoming fall 2002 shows reach almost comparable levels to those of the brand-recognized spinoff series.
NBC has four incoming shows above the 25 percent level-“In-Laws” (31 percent), “American Dreams” (29 percent), “Good Morning Miami” (29 percent) and “Boomtown” (28 percent).
Fox, which has benefited from the multinight summer ratings bonanza of “American Idol,” has seen its promo spots for the drama “John Doe” (33 percent) and comedy “Cedric The Entertainer Presents” (26 percent) pay off in awareness above the 25 percent watermark.
Network research sources view the third level of research data-measuring 18- to 49-year-old respondents’ awareness of a title and their stated interest in watching a show-as an important measure of the effectiveness of their promotional message.

The vetting process of asking respondents which shows they are interested in viewing whittles down the field of premiering series to about 10 shows scoring above a 10 percent benchmark in the awareness/interest category.
Scoring highest in the latest weekly awareness and interest in viewing category is CBS’s “CSI: Miami”(25 percent), followed by Fox’s “John Doe” (15 percent), UPN’s “Twilight Zone” (15 percent) and Fox’s “Cedric” (14 percent). Other series at or above the 10 percent interest level are NBC’s “In-Laws” comedy (13 percent) and “American Dreams” drama (10 percent); CBS dramas “Robbery Homicide Division” (13 percent) and “Without a Trace” (10 percent); and ABC’s “Dinotopia” (11 percent).
Without the opportunity to analyze the research firsthand, Stacey Lynn Koerner, a senior audience research executive at Initiative Media-North America, drew from her past knowledge of phone surveys and coined them “soft research,” which largely has the intent of “helping the networks to shape and craft their promotional messages.”
“These kinds of research pieces give you some direction in regards to awareness and other respondent phenomena, but I would not seriously use it as a tool to measure potential viewing levels for shows,” said Ms. Koerner, executive VP and director of audience research for Initiative Media.
“We’ve already made projections and know intuitively what `CSI: Miami’ will do in the ratings,” she said. “This research can have you question the assumptions about the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of a [promotional] message, but it is certainly nothing the [ad] agencies would be making any major buyer decisions from. We’ve already done that legwork.”
Ms. Koerner said phone survey research is “probably indicative” of whether the network should increase or decrease the frequency with which promo spots air, and possibly of how to craft the message.
Officials at CBS, NBC, The WB and UPN declined comment on the survey, while officials at ABC and Fox could not be reached for comment.