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Favorites Are Good Buys

Apr 21, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The Q factor. Some television shows have more of it than others, and those that have it usually flaunt it. If you’re a media buyer, you could grow to love Q.
Unlike the Nielsens, which measure how many people are watching, TVQ and Cable Q are a litmus test, measuring whether viewers like what they see. Q scores result from a survey that polls a national panel of 1,800 respondents age 6 and older. It asks participants to rate shows as “one of my favorites,” “very good,” “good,” “fair,” “poor” or “never seen or heard of before.” The Q scores are then calculated on how many people in target demographic groups put which shows among their favorites.
Evaluations/TVQ Inc., a Manhasset, N.Y.-based research firm, devised the scoring method in 1964. The company keeps a low profile, but recently the buyers and marketers for whom Q scores were devised have been more aggressive about using a high Q when it serves their purposes. For instance, CBS proudly touted earlier this year that CSI had Q scores higher than NBC’s long-running ER.
Henry Schafer, executive VP of Marketing Evaluations, doesn’t like to talk about the concerns of individual clients, but he is eager to point out that factoring in TV and Cable Qs can help a network promote advertising sales effectively. Likewise, he thinks a media buyer savvy about Q can get the best upfront deals, including bargains.
For instance, Mr. Schafer says the Saturday night lineup attracts some of the most loyal fans even though it has a bad reputation among media buyers as a night that people don’t watch TV. “Saturday night shows are among the most involving shows on TV. So if you want to take advantage of good pricing, Saturday night is a good night to look into.”
Marketing Evaluations contends that its research proves that viewers who rate a program as “one of my favorites” are more likely to view commercials more attentively, more likely to recall commercial content and remember commercial sales points. “The day of the blockbuster TV hit is gone. Placing greater emphasis on the mind-set of the audience helps buyers avoid calculating payback tied to the total number of bodies reached and instead calculate the number of involved and attentive viewers delivered,” Mr. Schafer said.
In the best of all possible worlds Mr. Schafer would like to sell his audiences on buying Performer Q as well as TV and Cable Qs. Performer Q does the same kind of measurements, but it’s based on personality, calculating how widely known someone is and how many of those familiar with that person identify him or her among their favorites.
Clout for Media Buyers
For example, James Gandolfini, star of HBO’s The Sopranos, has a Q score of 36, while the average Q score for a male in a prime-time series is 19. “He is the primary star and gets the most press,” Mr. Schafer said, but he’s not alone. “His wife and the psychiatrist get pretty good Q scores and the show has held up as well. In this case, personality appeal supports the overall appeal of the show.”
This kind of information can give a media buyer real clout, Mr. Schafer insisted. “If you are the buyer and you are presented with a network proposal to buy a show that has a lot of viewers but you know that viewers aren’t that attentive or the show is only getting that audience because it is stationed between two other shows, you can point to the Q scores and tell the seller, `I won’t pay through the nose for that kind of audience.”’