NBC Best On Buzzmeter Web Study

John Consoli

JULY 10, 2006 -

The initial buzz on the broadcast networks’ new fall shows has been compiled by Brandimensions, and the NBC dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is far and away the show generating the most interest right now.

The Brandimensions pre-season analysis monitored a broad range of Internet sources, and found 2.3 million mentions of new fall shows (which it narrowed down to 712,500 unique results and 45,300 relevant results from mid-May to late June). The data revealed that Studio 60 was talked about in 22.2 percent of the online audience discussion, far ahead of the second-most talked-about show, NBC drama Heroes, which averaged 9.3 percent. Rounding out the Top 10 most discussed new shows were CBS drama Jericho (5.5 percent); NBC sitcom 30 Rock (5.4 percent); ABC dramas Six Degrees (4.4 percent) and Betty the Ugly (4.2 percent); Fox drama Vanished, ABC drama The Nine and NBC drama Friday Night Lights (all 3.9 percent); and CBS drama Shark (3.8 percent).

Studio 60 also received the highest “sentiment” score—the most positive audience feeling about a show—with a 3.81. Heroes came next with a 3.6, followed by Six Degrees (3.56), Betty the Ugly (3.52), Vanished (3.48), Jericho (3.47), 30 Rock (3.45), Brothers and Sisters (3.44), The Nine (3.33), and NBC sitcom 20 Good Years (3.31).

On the low end of the audience discussion gauge was CW sitcom The Game (0.70 percent of the total). That said, the show scored a 2.76 sentiment score, higher than four other new shows. Fox sitcom Happy Hour scored the lowest sentiment score at 1.97.

Combining results for all new shows on each net, NBC generated 41 percent of all new show discussion on the Web, with CBS second at 19 percent, ABC third at 15 percent, Fox with 14 percent and CW with 11 percent. NBC also led in sentiment with a 3.61 rating, following by CBS with a 3.29, ABC with a 3.15, Fox at 2.97 and CW at 2.32. “NBC appears to have generated the most viewer interest in its new crop of shows,” read the Brandimensions report.
“The network has three out of the top four most anticipated new shows. This is a substantial turnaround from this time last year, when NBC was a distant second to CBS.”

The report also indicated that discussion for most shows turned more positive when a trailer of the show had been viewed either on TV or online. Once trailers were seen, shows like Friday Night Lights, Shark and ABC sitcoms Help Me Help You and Let’s Rob enjoyed a turnaround in viewer perception. “This suggests an opportunity for all networks to greater spread awareness that previews for the fall 2006 season can be seen on their respective Web sites,” the report said.

For example, Friday Night Lights was originally perceived to be a show about football, but after seeing the trailer, web surfers commented that the show appears to have interesting characters and depth beyond football. The report also found that James Woods is a major audience driver for Shark, which has a “substantial” opportunity to capture a loyal male audience.

Six Degrees and The Nine received significant positive discussion from adults 25-54. And women 18-24 appear to be big supporters of Betty the Ugly and its star, America Ferrera (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). “This show could be a surprise hit for ABC,” the report said, but added that the show’s core audience is not happy with the Friday 9 p.m. time slot.
Interestingly, NBC’s 20 Good Years, starring John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor, which was panned by media buyers, scored particularly high (11th overall out of 26) in the report.
Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency, charged with promoting NBC’s shows, said the Brandimensions report “is a reinforcement that we are doing something right and that what we are doing to promote these shows is working.”

But Manze added that while NBC is running Web trailers, some outside forces are also adding to the shows’ exposure. For example, he said about a half dozen independent Web sites went up within days of Heroes’ unveiling at NBC’s upfront presentation in May. “You can’t really create buzz,” Manze said. “People will either take to a show or not. But once there is buzz about a show, either positive or negative, we can use it to make adjustments.”

Dave Poltrack, executive vp and chief research officer for CBS Corp., said measurement of online buzz has become “an increasingly valuable tool that gives us an advance look at how audiences perceive shows.” Poltrack added he is encouraged by CBS’ showing in the Brandimensions report. Poltrack plans to compare the information from the Brandimensions report with the results of his own show testing at CBS’ Television City public research facility in Las Vegas to see how the results correlate.

Media agency execs also see some value in monitoring buzz. “I doubt whether [online buzz] can predict whether a show that has never aired—and the people commenting on it have never seen—will succeed or fail,” said Steve Sternberg, executive vp and director of audience analysis at media agency Magna Global. “But it may give an indication that a show will get higher viewer sampling for the first episode than we might have thought.”

And that is the goal of this type of research, according to Michael Coristine, market analyst for Brandimensions. “This is not a report that predicts what will succeed or not succeed for the entire season,” he said. “It is a reflection of what potential viewers are thinking and what they are excited about right now, based on what they have either heard or seen.”


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