It's Make it or Break it Time for the Fall TV Season
September is here and with it comes fall foliage, back to school sales and the much anticipated start to the new TV season. Between now and December, networks will premiere almost 40 new programs in an effort to catch our attention and create this season's breakout show. However, if last year is any indication, quite a few shows will not make it to Christmas and even less will survive until the September 2016 season. As an active observer of the industry and a consumer excited about a few of the new shows, I am interested in understanding how decision makers will determine which shows make it to a second season when how we watch TV is turning existing business models upside down.
New technology like OnDemand, DVR and OTT services like Netflix and Hulu not only give us control over what we watch, but also when, where and how we watch video programming. This flexibility is of course important to consumers, but is giving industry executives anxiety as they try to monitor which shows are gaining traction.
A generation ago, when we were all required to sit in front of a TV set on a specific day at a specific time to watch a show, studio chiefs would pour over TV ratings data weekly to see if the show achieved the audience goals they set and was building a loyal following. Advertisers and their agency representatives, would also scrutinize the same data to calculate how many consumers they reached with their brand messages. Today's environment is very different. Because we are no longer required to be at home in front of the TV on a specific day at a specific time, those traditional metrics don't tell the whole story and therefore aren't equipping decision makers with the information they need to determine whether a show stays on air or gets pulled.
Telling the whole story of TV and digital viewing
In general, broadcast networks experience up to an eight percent increase in audience reach when including audiences who watch shows digitally, whereas cable networks see up to a 50 percent jump in audience reach when digital consumption is added to TV-only viewing.
Digital viewers are no longer a bonus audience anymore -- they are an essential part of how content is consumed today. New devices in particular are driving significant usage, warranting a need to account for digital consumption beyond just desktop computers. On average, publishers experience a 56 percent lift in their purely digital audience reach when they include smartphone and tablet consumption compared to desktop-only audiences. Additionally, when measuring over-the-top video consumption on connected living-room devices, such as Smart TVs and gaming consoles, on average we've seen a 100 percent lift in digital reach compared to desktop viewing.
So the question is, are networks accounting for all consumption that takes place before they decide what's considered a success and what's a dud? The Mindy Project is a good example of a show that had relatively low TV ratings, yet a loyal online fanbase. The move of the show from primetime to Hulu delighted fans, and created opportunities for the media owner, the distributor and for advertisers. As a result, The Mindy Project ranked as the top show on Hulu after its online premiere earlier this year, proving that digital has the power to command audience attention.
Completing the picture
Knowing that TV show success is based on the metrics, viewers play a pivotal role in determining the future of the new fall line-up. We vote by tuning in - whether that's live, time shifted or online. It's time for networks to have the insight into who is watching what shows, where they are viewing them and when in order to make smarter decisions about their programming schedule - and keep the best shows running regardless of the platforms where they are being viewed.
What new fall shows do hope make it past Christmas?
Data Source: Comscore Xmedia, U.S., June 2015