What’s Engaging about Cable?

Well, I won’t have done too badly this Lent. I will have posted two blogs.

As promised, I am continuing to write about TV “engagement.” In the last blog, I focused on broadcast TV programs. In this piece, I look at ad-supported cable network programs. As I said before, the definition of “engagement” deals with time spent viewing, or “stickiness.” Rentrak looks at the average percentage of a program watched. This form of “engagement” is good, because studies have shown that if two people watch a half hour program that has an ad in the first 15 minutes, if one person just watches the first 15 minutes, and the other watches the full half hour, the half hour viewer is much more likely to recall the ad. Programs with audiences that “stick to them” give a positive benefit to their advertisers.

I looked at data from Rentrak’s weekly reports on “engagement” for 2013. You should also know that Multichannel News is now publishing our reports in advance in their print edition. (Visit Multichannel.com to get more information.) And you can send me an email at bruce.goerlich@rentrak.com if you want to get on the Rentrak mailing list.

Like in my broadcast post, I first took a look at the distribution of shows by genre.

Percentage of Ad-Supported Cable Shows


As with broadcast, Drama and Reality genres dominate the most engaged programs. However, cable’s share of top engaged Dramas is 43%, compared to broadcast’s 67%. What makes up the difference in cable? Ad-supported cable reality shows are at 34% compared to 16% on broadcast. (Thank you, “Basketball Wives,” “Braxton Family Values,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Project Runway,” etc.).

Another big difference with ad-supported cable consists of the importance of the Movie and Mini-Series categories. These genres still show up on cable, and viewers like and are engaged with them. Many of these are originals, as well as old favorites.

One way that broadcast and cable programs are exactly alike is that there is no relationship between the rating and “engagement”/”stickiness.” The chart below takes all the ad-supported cable shows in our 2013 reports and plots them on the vertical axis for “stickiness,” and on the horizontal for ratings rank. No relationship exists. A low rated program can be very engaging.

Comparison of Stickiness & Ratings for Ad-Supported Cable Networks

And, as with Broadcast, this additional leverage from looking at a measure of “engagement” is a good thing. Both sides of the desk can use the leverage when it serves their interest.

Next up, what you didn’t know about the State of Video on Demand.

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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