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Archive for TV – Page 2

NFL Ratings: Not Dead Yet

NFL logo/shieldFor the previous two years, would-be pundits acted like the barrow-man collecting dead bodies in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, throwing the NFL on the heap in the cart despite its protestations of “I’m not dead yet!.” Unlike the Holy Grail, where the old man was “helped” with a strong whack to the head, the NFL and NFL ratings have jumped off the cart looking increasingly hearty.

Ratings from the 2018 regular season show a 5% increase, compared with decreases of 10% and 8% the previous two years. Combined with a substantial ratings increase for the playoffs so far, and the NFL juggernaut appears to be coming up to speed. Recent doom and gloom aside, it is still a ratings powerhouse – it was just slightly less dominant in the previous two years.

Better Teams in Bigger Markets

It is likely much of this is simply due to team improvements and upgrades of matchups. Teams having good seasons and making the playoffs in 2018 after missing in 2017 are the LA Chargers (#2 Nielsen DMA), Chicago (#3), Dallas (#5), Houston (#7), Seattle (#13), Baltimore (#26), and Indianapolis (#28). These replace Buffalo (#52), Jacksonville (#42), Tennessee (#27), Pittsburgh (#24), Carolina (#23), Minnesota (#15), and Atlanta (#10).

The seven new 2018 playoff teams came from markets that on average rank 12th in population.  These replaced 2017 playoff teams that came from markets that on average ranked 27th in population. Making the reasonable assumption that playoff contention increases interest in and viewing of a team, the compounding of larger markets and higher interest levels certainly doesn’t hurt the NFL.

Even though it believes in franchise parity, the league is much healthier with its big market teams doing well. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, all teams are equal – but some are more equal than others.

The return of teams with a national following, like Dallas and Chicago helps, and Pittsburg was competitive until the final week of the regular season. Even teams that mostly looked hapless – like the NY Jets and NY Giants in the #1 TV market – drew audiences to see their rookie franchise saviors (Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley, respectively) play.

Factors Outside the Lines

Certainly other external factors unrelated to competition have had their impact. Matchups for Monday and Thursday night games were judged much improved over previous years. This season saw little in the way of the national anthem controversy nor the issue of brain injury for players, which may have affected viewing the past couple of seasons. Even the move of the Chargers (from DMA #29 San Diego) and the Rams (from #21 Saint Louis) to the L.A. (#2) market may finally be paying off as indifferent Los Angelenos begin to root for their returned franchises.

And the NFL is subject to the same forces that are impacting viewing overall. These include the long-term impact of Peak TV, fragmentation of viewing, and the siphoning off of viewing time in favor of other media like videogames. Their ratings are indeed down on a net basis over the past few years despite the revival this season. But just like the broadcast networks or ESPN, the NFL still commands a dominant – even if decreasing – audience and will continue to command premium rates for the networks that carry its games.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Don’t miss future posts by signing up for email notifications here .  
– Read my new book about TV, The Genius Box. Details here . 

Friday Finds: “Tales From the Tour Bus”

Friday Finds shares a piece of content I’ve recently discovered on broadcast, cable, or streaming TV.

Today’s find: Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus
Genre: Half hour animated documentary
Studio: Judgemental Films/Zipper Bros/Sutter Road
Find it on: Cinemax, seasons 1 (8x) and 2 (8x)

Tales from the Tour Bus poster

Since the demise of its “Skinemax” adult late-night fare, Cinemax has been struggling to define an identity. It’s unfortunately best known as the destination for big brother HBO’s hand-me-down movies, and Canadian or British series likely already passed over by PBS, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.

All that being said, there are a few glimmers of hope. Among these is Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus. Although I’ve come late to the series, I’ve been an enthusiastic viewer since discovering it in its second season.

Tales from the Tour Bus is an animated documentary series, created by Mike Judge. Judge is most famous as the creator of the animated series Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, as well as bringing us HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Now, I will admit an “animated documentary” does sound a bit odd, but it works quite well. Interviews are shown via what I presume is some type of rotoscoping (animating regular video). And animation also allows the re-creation of interesting scenes from the subjects’ lives.

I first tuned in when the description of Season 2’s opening episode caught my eye as I scrolled through my FiOS program guide – George Clinton and P-Funk. Despite being a blue-eyed, white Boomer from suburban New Jersey, I do love me some funk, so I tuned in. The episode immediately grabbed my attention and it turns out Season 2 is all about funk. I watched each week as new episodes covered subjects like Bootsy Collins, Morris Day and The Time, Rick James, and James Brown.

Season One covered country stars such as Johnny Paycheck, Waylon Jennings, and Jerry Lee Lewis. I had to go back and catch up on via Cinemax video-on-demand. Country’s not so much my thing, but the format of the series still made it interesting.

On the Road Again

So take a detour from your usual viewing and check out the first two seasons of Tales from the Tour Bus. No news yet on a renewal for a third season, but let’s hope Cinemax keeps this magical mystery tour around for a while yet.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Don’t miss future posts by signing up for email notifications here .  
– Read my new book about TV, The Genius Box. Details here . 

2019’s New SVOD Services: Blitzkrieg or War of Attrition?

I’m guest-blogging again for the upcoming 2019 edition of the Media Insights & Engagement Conference. My first post deals with legacy media giants finally jumping into the deep end of the OTT/SVOD pool in 2019.

“The last year of the Twenty-Teens will finally see the emergence of the legacy media’s competitors to Netflix. Coming out in 2019, they will be ready to do battle in the early Twenty-Twenties for America’s audience. Whether this will be a come-from-behind victory, or just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, should be clear relatively quickly.”
Read the rest of the post here.

 

MIE Conference logo
Attend the MIE conference, January 29-31 in Los Angeles to hear industry thought leaders on this topic and many others. Details for the conference can be found here.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Don’t miss future posts by signing up for email notifications here .  
– Read my new book about TV, The Genius Box. Details here . 

A Magnolia Channel Could Bring Discovery Gaines

chip and joanna gainesNot surprisingly, news came earlier this week that Chip and Joanna Gaines – the design power couple behind the Fixer Upper series and the Magnolia brand – are coming back to television. This time, not solely as series stars but curators of their own network.

Discovery, which absorbed Scripps Networks and their HGTV, Food, Cooking, DIY, and other channels, is behind the offer to the Gaines.

I’ll make the assumption that their new network will replace one of Discovery’s lesser channels. (I’m looking at you, American Heroes and Destination America.) As noted in my new book, “The Genius Box,” large network groups took the same strategy as CPG companies in supermarkets. They filled program guide “shelves” with little-wanted brand variations, just to prevent the competition taking that space. But this resulted in many weak networks that offer little differentiation and lots of repurposed programming.

In this respect, the move to offer the Gaines the chance to rebrand and reprogram one of these networks makes sense. It can’t help but to be an improvement on what’s already on one of these lower-tier networks. And the cross-media potential of the Magnolia brand must be very enticing.

Drawbacks?

The drawback? Tying a network to a single personality has never had a good track record. Even the Queen of Media, Oprah, has been unable to make Discovery’s own OWN much more than a niche success. Nor was she able to break Oxygen before that. The problem is that even the best-loved personalities have a certain shelf life. Cable networks almost inevitably stray from their original targeted concepts to chase larger, broader audiences. And there is also the consideration that a “Magnolia” channel will cannibalize the audience of Discovery’s existing set of ex-Scripps lifestyle channels.

It sounds like any “Magnolia” network launch or rebrand is still well in the future. Regardless of potential negatives, such a move will certainly meet one rule of the Peak TV era: a brand strong enough to support its own OTT app.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Read his new book, “The Genius Box” – details here
Get notifications of new posts – sign up at right or at bottom of this page.

Stan Was The Man… ‘Nuff Said

Stan LeeIt’s with a heavy heart today that I read about the passing of Stan Lee. Stan was the leader who originated much of the Marvel Universe in concert with his team at Marvel. While there may be some discussion about his exact role in the creation of the many characters invented under his watch, there can be no dispute that he was the orchestrator of the development of the Marvel Universe.

While his time at Marvel dated back to the 1940s, and he left the comics side of Marvel in the 1980s, it can be put forward that he is one of the most influential creators of entertainment IP of this, the 21st century. Perhaps no single person other than J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter franchise can put claim to having such a strong hand in creating the media IP that power today’s media companies.

Superpowering Disney

The acquisition of Marvel is what keeps Disney successful, and a buyer rather than the target of acquisition. The amazingly successful implementation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has spawned 20 films – with different but interconnected characters – in 10 years. The Marvel IP will help drive the new Disney streaming service, Disney+, as well as new rides and lands in the Disney theme parks. And don’t forget all the lucrative licensed goods that come out of Marvel as well.

The success of the MCU might also have an influence from Stan Lee. While the movies have had many writers and directors, Kevin Fiege has been the ringmaster who has shepherded the separate pieces into a successful continuum. This is quite similar to Stan’s role with the original comics, and has helped avoid the chaos that marks the DC Comics movie franchise.

On a personal note, I will always remember Stan taking a minute to talk to my son, who was 10 at the time, as he was traveling between panels at the 2007 New York Comic Con. It as quite a thrill for young Philip.

Excelsior!

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Read his new book, “The Genius Box” – details here
Get notifications of new posts – sign up at right or at bottom of this page.

A Potential STB-Sized Hole in Pay TV Revenue

set-top boxAs noted in one of my previous posts, at least some pay TV companies are finally pushing forward to eliminate set-top boxes (STBs) in favor of apps loaded to smart TVs. In that post, I alluded to the question of forgone revenue. A recent article in the L.A. Times put an estimate to that question.

The author of the article did some digging into costs and revenues. By his estimates, STBs cost between $150 and $250 as delivered to pay TV providers. But by average revenue from leases of those boxes, pay TV companies receive around $230 a year. This means it only takes about one year for companies to recover their expense for the box. Every month’s revenue after that is pure profit.

In terms of gross revenue, the author estimated Comcast’s Xfinity brings in $2.6 billion a year from STBs; and Charter brings in $1.4 billion. So while a billion may not buy what it used to, it’s still a large number to cut out of pay TV revenues. This is especially true with cord-cutters and skinny bundles also making a slow but sure impact.

Filling the Gap

There is surely money that can be saved from the overhead required to maintain a large stock of STBs – both administrative and in-field – but that is unlikely to fill the revenue gap. As I note in my previous post, to what new and inventive charges will subscribers be subjected in order to maintain overall revenues? And will that drive away even more consumers fed up with bring nickled-and-dimed to death by the legacy pay TV providers?

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Read his new book, “The Genius Box” – details here
Get notifications of new posts – sign up at right or at bottom of this page.

Friday Finds: “Lodge 49”

Friday Finds shares a piece of content I’ve recently discovered on broadcast, cable, or streaming TV.

Today’s find: Lodge 49
Genre: Hour comedy
Origin: AMC Prods.
Find it on: AMC, season 1 (10x)

Lodge 49 posterLodge 49 has just ended its season run on AMC, and it’s taken me that long to consider writing about it. It’s a difficult to describe hour – mostly comedy, some drama, and a lot of quirky.

The series features famous offspring Wyatt Russell (son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russel, as Dud) and Sonya Cassidy (as Dud’s sister, Liz). Lodge 49 looks at the struggles of these “adult” children as they deal with the death of their father and their own issues through the use of a lot of symbolism and allegory.

The Lodge 49 of the title is the Long Beach-located branch of a slowly decaying fraternal order. However, the lodge setting provides much of the amusing whimsy in the series. Is there really some magic or special powers behind the usual grandiose trappings of the order? This may be, but the lodge serves the plot as the locus of all the quirky souls who cross paths in the course of the series.

Also prominently featured in the first season are Brent Jennings, playing Ernie, a Don Quixote to Dud’s Sancho Panza; Linda Emond as Connie, Ernie’s erstwhile girlfriend; and the always enjoyable Bruce Campbell as The Captain. A variety of interesting character actors fill out the large cast. The final episode introduces a new character to whom we can hopefully look forward in season two; look quickly or he’ll be “up in smoke.”

Character-Driven Creative

Lodge 49 is definitely a shaggy dog story; it takes its own sweet time moving around Long Beach and this story of its denizens. If you have a weakness for character-driven series, give it a try. Lodge 49 is currently available through AMC pay TV VOD, AMC streaming, or for purchase at Amazon Prime Video.

Dave the Research Grouch: iSpot.TV and MediaPost

Fall is in the air, Christmas ads have started on TV, and the Research Grouch has emerged Grinch-like from his cave. Today’s offenders are iSpotTV and MediaPost – because it always takes a company looking for publicity and a news outlet to publish it.

iSpot.TV logoThursday’s story in MediaPost, “Shorter TV Ads Command More Viewer Attention,” discussed findings from iSpot.TV’s analysis of “37,854 TV commercials across 4.7 million TV ad airings.” The first alarm bells go off. Usually, when huge numbers are tossed around, it’s often to try to legitimize sketchier numbers to follow – as if large sample sizes are some sort of guarantee of quality.

Strike Out

The article noted several differences in “Attention Score” – a score which was undefined. I don’t expect to be told how it’s calculated, but I do expect to be told how “attention” is defined, since presumably these are calculated solely from digital data and not from tracking eye-gaze. Strike one on MediaPost.

Strike two comes from the conclusion that 10 second commercials have a better Attention Score than do 30 second ads. The scores are “91.0 to 91.5” and “90.0”, respectively. But no context is given in the article as to what is a significant difference. Delving into iSpot.TV’s own report, they do actually say a difference of “a few points is significant.” Assuming “a few” has its typical meaning, this would be 3 to 4 points. Applying this to the headline finding, and the difference of 1 to 1.5 points is not really significant.

Another difference called out as “much more notable”, between the 10 second spots and 60 second spots (a score of 88 to 88.5, and thus a difference of 1.5 to 2 points), appears to also not be significant.

Strike three on the MediaPost article, or at least a foul tip, is not questioning the inclusion of 10 second ads. Does anyone actually sell those? I’ve heard of 6s, 15s, and 30s, but I’ve not read about 10s being a standard length for TV commercials. A curious choice by iSpot.TV.

Credit Where It’s Due

I will give some credit to iSpot.TV for publishing a report on which the MediaPost article was based (free to download if you give them your email info). And they get credit for including the significance information that was lacking in the article. However, nowhere in the report, or anywhere on the iSpot.TV website, is the derivation of the Attention Score addressed. To me, attention is only measured by actual eyes-on or ears-on an ad. I’m very curious how it is defined in this case.

As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I don’t expect writers to be experts on research, but there should be some level of intellectual curiosity rather than just regurgitating a press release. And I don’t expect companies to give away proprietary information, but if you’re going to publicize something, at least give enough information to answer some basic research questions about your service.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Read his new book, “The Genius Box” – details here
Get notifications of new posts – sign up at right or at bottom of this page.

My New Book, “The Genius Box”

The Genius Box coverAs a reader of my blog, I hope you will be as excited as I am about the publication of my first book, The Genius Box: How the “Idiot Box” Got Smart & Is Changing the Television Business – not by coincidence being launched during the debut week of the Fall broadcast season.

Put very briefly, the book explores the evolution of the TV set and of the relationship between viewers and their sets… and the impact of this evolution on various stakeholders in the TV ecosystem such as content creators, content distributors, advertisers, measurement companies, CE companies, and the government.

I’ve had this book in my head for several years and finally had the opportunity to tackle the task of writing the book in the months following my departure from the corporate research world last fall. We all know TV is being disrupted; I found out so too are books, thus I self-published this book – but more on that in a subsequent blog post.

The Genius Box is currently available in paperback or Kindle format at Amazon, or in e-book format at B&N and Apple iBooks. Over the coming weeks, it will become available at most major online book sellers.

More details on the book, and resources for the press or reviewers, can also be found on The Genius Box pages on the TiceVision website here.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Get notifications of new posts – sign up at right or at bottom of this page.

Are Special Events Special Anymore?

Emmys statueTo perhaps no one’s surprise, the audience for this year’s Emmys broadcast on NBC fell 10 percent from 2017. This means there is a 35 percent fall from the last time NBC aired the awards in 2014. With many hanging their hats on these type of live special events keeping traditional TV relevant, this is not good news. This is particularly true in light of year-to-year declines in other awards shows like the the Grammys (-24%), Oscars (-20%), and Golden Globes (-5%). Only the Tonys showed a stable audience this year, albeit declining long term.

Not-So-Special

What’s contributing to these special events becoming less special? There are a number of possible reasons. Here’s a few from my perspective:

— The increase in viewer choice and purposeful viewing. Created by the same SVOD services that are winning a notable number of Emmys, this means no more viewing of the “least objectionable program.” Would you rather watch a new episode of Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime, or stars slapping each other on the back?

— The same increase in content and viewer fragmentation means less relevance of an Emmy win. I’m a fan of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, and voted for it on my Emmy ballot, but how widely did its big win on Monday night resonate? There are no audience numbers publicly published for Maisel. But in a recent MediaPost report, 76 percent of adults were totally unaware of Maisel. Why watch the Emmys if you’ve never heard of, much less watched, the nominated programs?

— Our changing media dynamic now means that our favorite stars are posting to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere seemingly every day. Whatever mystique there is to seeing stars out of character and being “themselves” is long past.

— And our country’s unfortunate current political dynamic means some people won’t watch award shows because they interpret the entertainment industry to be the domain of liberals. Or, like myself, they want entertainment without a lecture by either side of the political spectrum. I doubt many people tune in to awards shows to become more “woke.” There are more appropriate platforms to change hearts and minds.

Is There a Solution

What’s the solution? I doubt if there is one. At least for the Emmys, the amount of content is unlikely to subside, meaning less viewers per nominated show, and more options for those who don’t want to watch the awards at all. Tweaking the shows to be tighter, shorter, and more entertaining couldn’t hurt. But with the quick collapse of the Oscars’ proposed “popcorn” award, it’s evident that both the industry and the public will see through inauthentic attempts to boost the audience.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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