‘Tis the Season


As the summer ends, all thoughts turn naturally to the start of the new TV season. Lots of money and creative effort ride on the success or failure of new shows. One thing I believe could help shows succeed is using classic innovation theory to find the “early adopters”—those people who are more likely to watch new shows­. Promote to them and encourage them to spread the word. Their behavior tracks over time.

One of the wonderful benefits about Rentrak measuring more than 22 million TVs is that it allows us to create segments or advanced demographics that not only cross broadcast years, but are also robust enough to provide consistent insights over those years. To study the “early adopters” of TV shows, we looked at viewers of new TV series in both the springs and summers of 2010 and 2011. Our key determinate was viewership to 44 new shows in 2010. We divided HHs by the number of hours they viewed these shows, creating three groups: new show adopters, moderates and avoiders. We made sure we had the homes in both years. We then looked at those same groups’ viewership to another group of new shows in 2011.

The first thing we noticed is that the “adopters” stayed pretty consistent year-to-year. As the chart below shows, in 2010 the new show early adopters had a 171 index in terms of hours spent with the new shows versus the average HH and, while dropping in 2011 to a 137 index, still remained quite high.

Both the moderate and the avoiders’ hours also moved to the average (“regressed to the mean”), but they still held their relative positions. This means that using an advanced demographic created in one year, can be used to predict behavior in the second year. This is key for any sort of promotion activity for a TV network, or for any type of viewer segmentation that an advertiser or agency needs.

The proof can be seen in the details. Each dot in the chart below represents a program that aired in the spring and summer of 2010. The vertical axis is the rating against the New Show Adopters; the horizontal rating is the rating against the total U.S. You can see that the New Show Adopter ratings are much higher, and that there is a good fit (the blue line-stats folks can see the values in the legend box), the higher the New Show Adopter rating, the higher the general market rating. Because there are so many shows, it wouldn’t be clear to label them all. I’ve labeled the breakout show Rizzoli and Isles. It really pulled in the New Show Adopters! And it was renewed!

Now the cool thing is, we can take those same people (the folks who were New Show Adopters in 2010) and see what they did in 2011—they were still helping to drive up new show ratings. The chart below shows those 2010 New Show Early Adopters and their ratings to 2011 new shows on the vertical axis and the total U.S. rating on the horizontal. Each dot represents a new show that aired in 2011. The statistical fit is still good. In this case, I’ve called out two very successful new shows, Franklin & Bash and Falling Skies, both of which were renewed.

This ability to look at advanced demographics over time, and have the results be consistent and predictive is a powerful result of the massive size of Rentrak’s footprint.  A happy result for us and for our clients!

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


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