For the first time in the organization's 30-year history, the upcoming Winter Television Critics Association tour has been cancelled, due to the Writers Guild of America strike. The tour, which had been scheduled to begin 1/8, is the annual shindig where networks and cable channels promote upcoming program schedules. NBC pulled out of the event, in mid November, citing "challenging times due to the strike." At that time other broadcast networks have not decided yet, but reportedly, only cable channels had committed for sure. Overall, broadcasters had been unwilling to commit to the LA meeting, citing expected budget cutbacks and the possible difficulty of holding sessions about scripted shows, the association said. Many shows have been sidelined by the walkout-apparently too many to make unscripted fare enough of a draw. The group includes more than 220 journalists writing about TV for print and online outlets. Members traditionally gather in January and July to preview new series and interview show stars and creators and TV execs.
If I remember correctly this is the event that CNN began the promotion of Planet in Peril last January.
YIKES!!! LET’S JUST CUT THROUGH THE SPIN!
A lot happened in the news universe last week, but the spin and mud-slinging about cable news and information channels was out of control. We’ll give you the straight scoop with the limited resources we have. While I won’t speculate on other channel’s or writer/reporter agendas, CNN clearly touched a nerve with the other cable channels and bloggers, otherwise there would not have been so many darts thrown at the ratings (which were analyzed WRONG) of the event program “CNN HEROES.”
And not to get off track here, but let’s also give props to 60 MINUTES. The last time I told you 60 MINUTES cracked the Top Ten for Broadcast (cable programs are ranked separately) television was Sunday, November 25 which included Anderson Cooper’s report on “Awakenings.” The hour program ranked #7th out of all programs and delivered 15.52 million viewers. It had a huge football lead-in and in most markets did not start until 8PM when there are higher Homes Using Television (HUTS) than at 7PM. This past Sunday, December 9, 2007, 60 Minutes again hit another record high, ranking #3 out of all broadcast television programs for the week ending that day and delivering 16.48 million viewers. This program started at 7:30PM after again, another strong football overrun. The Patriots/Steelers was an extremely highly rated game, which helps. Lead-in to a program can be crucial, but many, many viewers stayed to watch, with the lead story being the plight of the Mountain gorillas on the boarder of Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Any researcher will tell you, 60 MINUTES has not seen this kind of performance in a few years. An upsurge in ratings with this 39 year old program -- you bet. Are the story selections better this year, thus more viewer interest? That is for you to decide. I can only tell you, after that number of years, they must do something right – and they don’t get the audience with gossip. Hummm…Anderson Cooper was one year old when Don Hewitt came up with the idea and pitched it successfully to CBS and CBS News. If you ever want a great read that includes much of why 60 MINUTES is the way it is, read Don’s autobiography – “TELL ME A STORY.” He used to say that to the staff to make sure they pitched ideas which would present compelling television. Happily, Jeff Fager, 60 MINUTES’s Executive Producer seems to have hit his stride in being able to pick up the baton and carry on the tradition of the program after Don’s retirement. CNN is able to use Cooper’s stories as well as other unused footage including the Gorilla story under their agreement with CBS News.
Now, let’s look at last week’s ratings^, and I’ll try to cut through the mud….CNN’s HEROES, since it spanned 9PM – 11:45PM (12MD) will be examined separately. Football on ESPN Monday night – Patriots/Ravens was the highest rated football game in cable history with 17.5 million viewers (peaking at 23.9 million, and yes, the Pats played two times this week) and massively impacted all channels on Monday night - WOW. We did not do percentages in comparison to last week due to the program disruptions.
Fox News: 494,000
Bill O’Reilly typically fell off on Friday, but also had a weak night (well below the program’s week average) on Tuesday when he interviewed the gay General who asked a question on the prior week’s CNN debate that caused controversy in being associated with the Hillary Clinton campaign. OUT IN THE OPEN only aired 3 nights, and had its strongest outing on Wednesday, the day of the Nebraska mall shooting. COUNTDOWN was fairly consistent except for Monday when David Schuster subbed for Keith Olbermann. When a program has a regular anchor, viewers clearly tune out with subs. We’ve seen this consistently on all channels since we have started examining the audience. All channels experienced substantial audience increases on Wednesday with coverage of the Nebraska mall shootings.
Fox News: 374,000
Hannity and Colmes had a pretty typical week with a big up tick on Wednesday with the Nebraska mall shooting coverage. LKL broke from the mall shootings on Wednesday to interview Brad Pitt on his New Orleans housing project on location which was his strongest day out of the three he aired. And Dan Abrams had a pretty decent week, particularly with coverage of the Natalie Holloway disappearance on CNN HEROES night – Thursday. It beat the first hour of HEROES, but that was only program other than FOX programs that bested HEROES in the demographic of Adults 25-54 and Total Audience 2+.
Fox News: 340,000
GRETA’s strongest night was also Wednesday, the night of the mall shooting. AC360 only aired 3 nights this past week and experienced a big jump on Wednesday as well. MSNBC’s Special Investigations/Doc Block did typical numbers Since 360 only aired 3 nights, a football impacted Monday, and a fairly weak Tuesday were too low to have Wednesday strong performance offset the weaker nights.
9PM-12MID; Adults 25-54***
Fox News: 367,000
CNN HEROES: 197,000
When a special program spans multiple time periods, Nielsen rates the program with one averaged audience number over the block of time aired. In order to fairly evaluate it in comparison to the competition, one can only average the same time periods on the other channels for comparison. One does NOT isolate one hour of the competition or selectively take the 9-11PM time period on other channels when in fact CNN’s HEROES aired almost to Midnight. One must compare exact time period to exact time period and that is what we have done. So, as you can see, other than Fox News’s average, CNN HEROES beat all other cable news/information/financial channels which are currently rated by Nielsen. Broadcast television was quite strong the night of CNN HEROES – both CBS and ABC with the #1 program for total viewers – CSI and the #2 program in total viewers – GREY’S ANATOMY, respectively, were up substantially from the week before.
You may see audience figures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for rebroadcasts of CNN HEROES. But that is exactly what they are – rebroadcasts. The industry is interested in “first run” (what we call the first airing of a program/special/event programming). Some points to consider:
This was the first time the program was broadcast – these kinds of programs need a few years to build in prestige and to promote tune-in.
Awards programs skew old and do not necessarily perform well. Many times the agenda for an awards program is not ratings, although they are a great bonus.
Awards programs can have marketing or demographic target marketing goals, which in some instances may not appeal to wide audiences in order to deliver a large audience.
CNN HEROES, being its first year can progress in prestige and star power once it becomes more established. This time of year is very difficult to get celebrities based on their commitments to promote film and television shows for Golden Globes, BAFTA Film Awards, SAG, Director’s Guild Awards and the Academy Awards before the Christmas break. It also doesn’t help that the industry is in the middle of a writer’s strike – celebrities are loathe being too visible during a strike other than to promote their product.
If CNN used more of its talent in the place of celebrity presenters, the program may have been reviewed as more of a showcase for CNN than the honorees.
Devoting 2 and ½ hours of primetime for “out of format” programming can be chancy for a news and information channel. One is taking it out of its element and there is no predicting how viewers will react when it isn’t information such as a debate or news related programming.
CNN HEROES also ranked 2nd in the time period (9PM-12MD) against all competition as well in Total Audience 2+.
So there you have it. No mud-slinging, “just the facts Ma’am.” Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll see you next week.
*3 day average applied to five days because of pre-emption of regular programming.
**4 day average applied to five days; Dan Abrams airs only 4 days.
***Adults 25-54 and Total Audience 2+; 9PM-12MD time period average.
^Courtesy Nielsen Media Research; Adults 25-54 LIVE + SAME DAY (LS) Fast Track Nationals.