Lost Tops All Online
Here’s a measure that I think is becoming increasingly important in determining the popularity and thus success of a TV show: online viewing.
Today, for the first time, Nielsen released online individual TV program rankings, with ABC.com’s Lost winning the number-one ranking with 1.4 million unique viewers in December, when the show wasn’t even airing originals on the network. I’m not surprised to see this – the type of audience that Lost attracts would seek that show out online. Lost premiered season five on Jan. 21, so I would expect those numbers to increase significantly in coming months.
In second place was NBC.com’s Saturday Night Live with 1.1 million unique viewers, followed by ABC.com’s Grey’s Anatomy with 879,000 viewers in December. By time spent, The CW’s Privileged was the month’s most popular, which to me is an indication of how undervalued and underseen many of those CW shows – Gossip Girl, 90210, One Tree Hill, Supernatural, etc. — are.
Nielsen looked at ABC.com, CBS.com, CWTV.com, Fox.com and NBC.com, but excluded Hulu.com, which I’m sure would add numbers to popular NBC and Fox shows such as Saturday Night Live, House, Heroes and 24.
Says Jon Gibs, vice president of media analytics at Nielsen Online: “As I see it, the broad diversity of top television network entertainment programs online suggests that there is more to online viewership than a simple extension of the TV audience. While the online popularity of some shows, like Grey’s Anatomy suggests that some people are using the Internet to catch up on programs they usually watch on television, the online popularity of other programs like Saturday Night Live, indicates that there is a Web audience that might otherwise not watch these programs at all. These viewers are driven by a morning-after water cooler effect. Then there’s Lost, which was not even on television in December. We believe viewers were using the Internet to familiarize themselves with the plot in advance of the show returning in January.”
We know this, but what the networks need to do now is a) monetize this online viewing, which I believe they do but not to the degree they need to with more and more viewing moving to the Web and b) figure out a way to include these numbers in their overall ratings so that people like me understand a show’s real success, and can communicate that success to our readers. These days, looking at overnights and even live plus three day numbers only tell part of any show’s story. That inability for anyone – media agencies, advertisers, trade reporters — to see the whole picture at a relatively simple glance is reducing the value of these expensive assets for these media companies, and in today’s environment, that’s not acceptable.
Here’s Nielsen Online’s top ten list. For more, go to:
Top 10 Online Broadcast TV Network Entertainment Programs* for December 2008 ranked by Unique Viewers (U.S.)
Rank Program Network Unique Viewers
1 Lost ABC.com 1,425,000
2 Saturday Night Live NBC.com 1,111,000
3 Grey’s Anatomy ABC.com 879,000
4 Desperate Housewives ABC.com 723,000
5 Heroes NBC.com 685,000
6 Ugly Betty ABC.com 631,000
7 Samantha Who? ABC.com 560,000
8 Scrubs ABC.com 519,000
9 Survivor CBS Television 496,000
10 True Beauty ABC.com 462,000
Source: Nielsen Online, VideoCensus
*Reflects video content on ABC.com, CBS Television, CWTV.com, FOX Broadcasting,
and NBC.com, along with their respective embedded video players. Programs are client-defined.