Thursday, October 05, 2006

TV ratings, 9/23/06 (LSH episode 1.01)

First, a digression.

When I was a kid, and September rolled around, I'd get the new TV Guide when it was time for the new season to start, and I'd plan my TV viewing. I'd circle the shows that I wanted to watch - no time for channel surfing, even though back then there were only five channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and two independent stations that showed reruns). Well, you couldn't surf because there were no remotes, you had to actually get up to change the channel, if you weren't already sitting right in front of the TV set.

Now kids have more channels to watch, but there's still Saturday morning cartoons on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and CW. Add cable stations and you add Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network. But it's still a business, first and foremost. TV shows have their fans, but if the series isn't making enough money for the network, they pull it in favor of something else. And if they figure out a way to make more money than the previous series, they'll do that other one.

Thus, Teen Titans and Justice League are not renewed, but the Legion gets a show. A lot of people are upset at that, at least the ones that post to the internet about it. But look at the diminishing returns for Time Warner (DC's corporate parent). JLU ran for 5 seasons, Titans for 3. Most animated series only last 3 seasons, long enough to get the right number of episodes for syndication. The last two seasons of JLU were a bonus, then.

But do you make more money off the 6th year of a series or the 1st? Clearly, season 1 of the Legion should be more profitable than season 6 of JLU - you've got a whole new series to adapt into merchandise and licensing, for one thing, so now you've got two series worth of goodies to foist upon young impressionable minds. And can you keep a series going when the creative staff says it's time to move on to something else? I'll be as unhappy as anyone in a couple of years when the Legion series is finally cancelled, but as they say, that's show business.

So, that being said... A few weeks ago I found a site that mentioned a place called Cynthia Turner's Cynopsis, a television industry newsletter. Among its editions is a version geared towards so-called "Children's Television" and related issues like marketing, licensing, and ratings. And this week they finally posted the Nielsen ratings for the Saturday morning shows.

For those not familiar, the TV industy uses "Nielsen ratings" to measure viewing audience. See the Wikipedia entry for more. Nielsen ratings are given as a pair of numbers, a "rating" and a "share". The rating number is a percentage of the total number of houses with TV sets who are watching the show, and the share is the percentage of TVs in use at the time. One ratings point is equivalent to about 1.1 million viewers, and a given rating can represent different shares based on when the sample was taken (there are fewer sets on at 3 a.m. than there are at 8 p.m.).

OK, now to the good stuff, enough with the preamble (and subsequent ratings discussion will only be the good stuff, none of that fluff I just wrote). As I mentioned, there are five broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CW/KidsWB) and three cable networks (Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel) that program for kids on Saturdays, typically from around 7 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. One problem I had when comparing the ratings is that in some markets the shows are not on at the same time, so comparing shows in a given time slot might not reflect everyone's schedule, but I went with the most common time. Here's the raw data, as presented on the 10/2/06 CynKids edition.

(No, I don't know why Blogger puts in this huge blank space before the table. Anyone know how to fix it?)

NICKELODEONFairly OddParents 4.51910:00
DISNEY CHANNEL Handy Manny 2.41010:00
CARTOON NETWORK Fantastic Four 2.0910:00
CW (Kids' WB!) Legion of Super Heroes 2.0810:00
FOX (4Kids TV) Yu 1.9810:00
ABC That's So Raven 1.6710:00
NBC (Qubo on NBC)Veggie Tales 0.0010:00
NICKELODEONFairly OddParents 5.02210:30
CARTOON NETWORK Teen Titans 2.41110:30
CW (Kids' WB!) The Batman 2.21010:30
DISNEY CHANNEL Handy Manny 2.1910:30
ABC That's So Raven 2.0810:30
FOX (4Kids TV) Viva Pinata 1.7710:30
NBC (Qubo on NBC)Dragon 0.1110:30

Now, the Legion has a respectable rating and share for its time slot. It is the highest rated non-cable show in its slot. In the 10:00 a.m. slot, 61% of the TV sets were tuned to cartoons, and the 8 share means that of that 61%, 8% of all TV sets on at 10:00 a.m. were watching the Legion. The seven networks programming in that slot (CBS doesn't, for whatever reason) have a combined rating of 14.4, meaning that over 15.8 million people were watching those networks. The Legion's 2 share means that about 2.2 million were watching.

Think about THAT one - About 40,000 bought the last issue, while 2.2 million people watched the Legion its first weekend. That's as many copies of the various Legion comics that have been sold, cumulatively, since about September 2000. As many people watched that one episode on one day as bought the last six years worth of comics.

Note that Teen Titans, currently in reruns, is still doing pretty well, second in its time slot at 10:30, just ahead of the new season of The Batman. And at 10:00, the Legion is just edged out in share by the new Fantastic Four cartoon on Cartoon Network.

So what would TimeWarner want, a new season of Teen Titans that might get fractionally higher in rating or share, or a new series that essentially doubles what Titans is getting?

More next week, and I'll keep track of the ratings over the season.

1 comment:

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