The broadcast networks had their upfront presentations last week. Here are a few takeaways.
The television networks are embracing big data. Virtually all of the networks have the capability of integrating product usage and purchasing data from various sources with ratings data from Nielsen or the more granular return path viewing data from Rentrak. The upshot is the networks can prove to advertisers that they can improve a brands return on investment and increase sales best. Nonetheless, expect audience guarantees to still be based on demographics.
Despite continued audience fragmentation more viewers are watching their shows today than they were ten years ago. Several broadcasters indicated that with DVR’s, video-on-demand and streaming websites, the audiences for their programs are larger today than they were in 2005, when none of this on-demand viewing was either available or measured.
The networks are not moving programs around the schedule as much. With more and more viewers watching shows on demand, the notion of counterprogramming or audience flow from program to program is becoming less and less important. The result is that schedules next season are going to be somewhat similar to 2014-15.
There will be even more diversity in programs next season. Last year was a breakout season for shows featuring a diverse cast. Empire on Fox was the top rated scripted show on broadcast television among young Adults. Led by freshman hits black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder, ABC was the only network to increase Adults 18-49 ratings in 2014-15 from the previous year. Jane the Virgin became the first program on The CW to win a Golden Globe. This trend of more diverse cast members will continue in 2015-16.
We will see more original series and fewer reruns. Expect to see more dramas in 2015-16 with complex storylines extending across episodes. Since these programs do not repeat well, the networks will not repeat them. Rather viewers will be able can catch up or find a show on-demand or online. Some programs such as Empire on Fox and ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD will air original series in the fall (ending with a cliffhanger), go on hiatus and pick up the storyline later in the season. In the interim another series will air in the time period.
TV Sports is big. Most of the networks talked sports. NBC touted the 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio de Janiero, Sunday Night Football (television’s most watched prime time show), its current coverage of horse racing’s Triple Crown and the National Hockey League and NASCAR. CBS will televise the 50th Super Bowl in February and boasted its recent ratings success of The Masters and the NCAA Basketball Tournament (although next season the Final Four and Championship game will air on Turner). Fox touted the NFL, including The NFC Championship Game, the second highest rated program on television after the Super Bowl, Major League Baseball, soccer’s World Cup and NASCAR. Turner Broadcasting highlighted the National Basketball Association, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and Major League Baseball. Even ABC made note that besides the NBA Finals and College Football on Saturday night, they will also televise an NFL playoff game next January. Additionally, both NBC and CBS talked about their late night schedule, while ABC touted its early morning Good Morning America and evening newscasts.
The networks are owned by big media companies. All the networks made mention that their parent companies are big and own many other media assets. These include cable networks, websites, radio, production studios, etc.
Cable television is no longer the biggest threat to broadcast networks digital video is. With concerns about the advertising marketplace, the networks all said that investing in digital video is a hazardous undertaking. With questions of online viewability, bots and issues of premium video content, ad dollars should remain on television which, they claimed, consists of 100% premium content.