Starcom’s Armando Assesses the Season

Oct 15, 2008  •  Post A Comment

It’s never too early to begin evaluating the new fall season on television.
At media buyer Starcom USA, Senior VP Sam Armando has two simple methods for getting a quick read on which new programs are off to a successful start and which may prove to be candidates for an unceremonious cancellation because too few viewers are tuning in—or worse, because viewers who have watched the show aren’t coming back.
Mr. Armando recently provided a quick look at the season so far for colleagues, with comment about how some shows are faring.
In the note, he explained that the first statistic he uses to evaluate a new show is to compare the rating for its premiere episodes to the network’s average.
“If the program’s rating exceeds that of the network average, it is a decent start for the show,” he said.
Then Mr. Armando invoked what he calls Starcom’s “10% Rule,” which says that if the show’s rating in the second week falls less than 10%, it is a sign that most of the initial audience liked what it saw.
To be sure, there are exceptions. A year ago, “Big Shots” drew a big number for its premiere that was above ABC’s average. But that turned out to be driven by having “Grey’s Anatomy” as a lead-in, and the show did not return for a second season. Mr. Armando cautions that ABC’s “Life on Mars” will have to be looked at carefully for the same reason this year.
Here is Mr. Armando’s take on some other shows (ratings numbers are through Oct. 6.):

  • ABC’s “Opportunity Knocks” drew a 1.8 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds compared with the network’s average for prime time of 4.0. In its second airing, it drew a 1.7 rating, down 6%.
    The word from Mr. Armando: “While ‘Opportunity Knocks’ survived ‘The 10% Rule,’ its overall rating is dismal. In addition, the show ranks sixth among A18-34. The only saving grace is that it does really well with K2-11 (1.5—second behind ‘Dancing With the Stars’). While that demo is not enough to save the program, it lends itself to family co-viewing that ABC may try to push.”

  • CBS’ “The Mentalist” drew a 3.3 rating when it premiered, beating CBS’ prime-time average of 3.0. A week later, it again registered a 3.3.
    “Looks good for this freshman drama,” Mr. Armando says. “Not only posting a rating bigger than what CBS averages, but maintaining it for the second week. It has a median age of 56.6. Although it was expected coming out of ‘NCIS,’ the show could appeal to a younger audience if on a different night. Don’t expect that, however. CBS has built a Tuesday that is a strong alternative to ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and ‘American Idol’ (in Q1).”

  • “Knight Rider” on NBC drew a 2.3 rating, well below the network’s prime-time average of 3.1. The rating dropped 4% in its second week to a 2.2.
    “Not what NBC wanted or needed. Fooled by a strong ‘Knight Rider’ movie last spring [that] made NBC bring this show back as a series. What brought that movie rating above a 5.0 was sampling, but just like ‘Bionic Woman’ before it, everyone saw this coming—except Ben Silverman [NBC’s entertainment co-chairman].”

  • Fox’s “Do Not Disturb” premiered at a 1.8 rating, below the network’s average of 2.4. It drew a 1.4 in its second week, down 22%, and a 1.3 in its third week.
    “If you had any questions as to why this show has been canceled—the numbers above supply your answer,” Mr. Armando notes.

  • The CW’s “90210” scored a 3.9 in the target demo of women 18 to 34 out of the box, more than double the net’s average of 1.6. The second week it dropped 37% to a 2.4; it bounced back to a 2.7 in week three, then settled at a 2.2 the following week.
    “While ‘90210’ did not survive ‘The 10% Rule’ and it declined again in week four, the 2.2 rating is something CW will gladly take,” Mr. Armando says. “Not only is that 38% better than its average, but it puts CW second overall in the time period with its coveted demo.”
    Mr. Armando also applied the test to a couple of recently launched programs on cable.

  • TNT’s “Raising the Bar” opened with a 1.8 rating, much higher than the network’s prime-time average of 0.7. Since then it dropped 32% in its second week to a 1.2 and over the following three weeks slipped further to a 0.6.
    “TNT was all puffy-chested after the premiere of this new drama,” Mr. Armando notes. “As the weeks have progressed, however, audiences appear to agree with the critics that say this is a pretty predictable show with stereotypical characters and over-the-top stories. Despite the free-fall in ratings, the show has been picked up for a second cycle.”

  • “Sons of Anarchy” on FX premiered with a 1.1 rating, up from the network’s 0.5 prime-time average. It slipped 9% to a 1.0 in its second telecast. It went on to slip a bit more, but three weeks later it was back at a 1.0.
    Mr. Armando’s take: “Billed (by FX) as ‘today’s “Sopranos,”’ this new drama is doing well for FX. It will not set the ratings world on fire, but as long as it continues to post a rating that doubles FX’s average, it will be around.”


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