Engaging With Cable Series Programming

Dec 11, 2006  •  Post A Comment

From IAG Research

Many cable networks are available in more than 85 percent of the nation, and aggregate audience levels have long been on the rise.

Cable programming, now in its fourth decade, offers viewers and marketers a plethora of programming that has changed the TV experience. Among the mainstays are nonseries programming such as news, business and sports (which we will review in an upcoming issue). There is also a wealth of movies, both made-for-TV and theatrical, such as those telecast by Lifetime and USA Network.

But this column is devoted to series programming, which takes many forms. There are the original-for-cable shows, as different as “The Closer,” “Monk,” “Miami Ink,” “House Hunters” and veteran “The Real World.” Another form consists of coveted off-broadcast network syndicated series such as “Seinfeld,” “Law & Order” and “King of the Hill.” And there is even off-pay network programming such as “Band of Brothers” and soon “The Sopranos.” Virtually every genre is represented on these dozens of networks.

IAG measures viewer response to 15 cable networks’ fare televised between 6 p.m. and midnight every day. Specific questions are asked of our more than 5,000 daily panelists about the key programming elements for each show they watched yesterday. The result is a vast database that can advise marketers on the most and least engaging programs.

Program engagement scores are generated from viewer response to content questions about yesterday’s episode. Viewers are asked the same questions about that episode, rather than the “self-attributed” method, which asks people, “How much attention do you pay to … ?”

The accompanying chart offers a look at the most engaging shows on the 15 cable networks we currently monitor. Both original programming and reruns make the list, as do a mix of genres, proving that all TV shows can enjoy high engagement levels. Here are the leaders during calendar year 2006, one selected per cable network.