CBS Capitalizes on Commercial Ratings

Jan 21, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Add another measure by which CBS has emerged as the top-rated network.
According to an analysis by Magna Global, the media intelligence arm of Interpublic’s Mediabrands unit, CBS also is leading the broadcast networks in C3 commercial ratings.
That’s important because advertising is bought and sold based on commercial ratings.
Magna Global said that through midseason, CBS has averaged a 2.8 C3 rating among adults 18 to 49.
CBS managed to surge to the top by not losing ground. It averaged a 2.8 in C3 during the same period last year.
But CBS’ network competitors registered declines. Last year’s leader, ABC, was down 13%, tying for second at a 2.7 with NBC, which slipped 7% from last year.
Fox was down 10% to 2.5 and The CW was down 20% to a 0.8 C3 rating.
While anointing CBS as the frontrunner, Brian Hughes, manager of broadcast research at Magna, noted, “As has become the trend in recent years, the race is so close that it’s hard to call anyone the definitive leader.”
Among adults 25 to 54, CBS was again No. 1 with a 3.6 C3 rating, but it was down 3%. ABC was down14% to a 3.2 rating, NBC was down 9% to a 3 rating, Fox was down 14% to a 2.5 rating and The CW was down 20% to a 0.8 rating.
“While the broadcast networks’ share of the viewing pie has continued to diminish this season, the declines are within the range we’ve come to expect in recent years,” Mr. Hughes said. “Not surprisingly, ad-supported cable has picked up the bulk of that audience.”
Among cable networks, ESPN was tops in primetime among 18- to 49-year-olds with a 1.05 C3 rating. A year ago ESPN had a 1.09 C3 rating. It was followed by USA Network with a 1.0 C3 rating, TBS with a 0.92, Adult Swim with a 0.64, TNT with a 0.56 and Comedy Central with a 0.51.
Because the presidential election distorted cable viewership in the fourth quarter, Mr. Hughes looked for two-year growth trends for his report. He found the only established cable networks showing consistent growth were AMC, Food Network, History, Nick at Nite, Sci Fi Channel, TBS and USA.
Smaller cable networks posting two-year growth were Biography, Fuse, History International, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime Movie Network, Oxygen, National Geographic, Style, Versus and WE.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Mr. Hughes said the effects of the Writers Guild of America strike still are being felt, with most new scripted shows due to premiere in March and April. A year ago, the midseason scripted rush occurred in January and February.
Early indicators on the broadcast networks’ midseason shows were mixed.
“True Beauty” on ABC premiered well and, despite a decline in its second airing, is still doing “substantially better” than the show in that time period a year ago, “so the network is probably pleased about that,” Mr. Hughes said.
Fox’s “24” was only slightly off its average from the first quarter of 2007, which Mr. Hughes said was “an extremely good sign” given the show’s two-year hiatus.
And while NBC’s “Superstars of Dance” “looked promising in its Sunday night debut, hewing close to ABC’s ‘Brothers & Sisters,’” two weeks later ratings dropped “precipitously” when the show went up against the premiere of Fox’s “24,” he said.
Ratings for ABC’s “Homeland Security USA” fell quickly to levels of the canceled “Opportunity Knocks,” “so its future is probably in jeopardy,” and The CW’s “13 The Fear Is Real” is expected to “quickly fade into obscurity.”
Mr. Hughes didn’t seem too worried about declines in the latest season of “American Idol.”
“The show has definitely begun to show signs of wear, but it is still head and shoulders above the competition,” he said. “Let’s face it: It has a long way to go before Fox would consider canceling it.”

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