Is it really so out of order for CBS Corp. president and CEO
Les Moonves to be predicting double-digit CPM price hikes for the network again
this year? Not when CBS is entering this upfront with a pretty powerful story
to tell advertisers.
On a total-viewer basis in primetime, CBS has 9 of the top 10 drama series on
television, and 12 of the top 14 and 14 of the top 20. And for those who
believe the network has the highest median age viewer of the Big Four broadcast
networks, and that it deserves a rep as the old people's network, its 18-49
ratings say otherwise. CBS has six of the top 10 highest-rated dramas among the
18-49 demo and 10 of the top 20.
CBS also has the top five most-watched sitcoms on television with four of them
also in the top five in the 18-49 demo, and seven in the top 10.
Moonves has always touted CBS as a "broad"-cast network and he and
his team of veteran programmers and schedulers have refused to go in the
direction of a lot of other networks in targeting programming specifically to
Moonves' philosophy has always been that if a network puts on programming
people want to watch, it will draw a total audience that includes enough
viewers to satisfy advertisers in all demos. That is the definition of a
broadcast network, he has said. And the ratings prove his point.
CBS' NCIS is the most-watched scripted drama series on television,
averaging 17.4 million viewers per episode, but it also is the highest-rated
among 18-49 year-old viewers with a 3.3 rating this season. NCIS: Los
Angeles averages 14.2 million viewers, making it the second most-watched TV
drama, and it draws a 2.8 demo rating, fifth best among all broadcast TV
dramas. Person of Interest is the third most-watched TV drama, averaging
12 million viewers and it draws a 2.6 18-49 rating, sixth best among TV dramas.
Here is the data for some other CBS dramas: The Mentalist, 11.9 million
viewer average (fourth best) and a 2.4 18-49 rating (tied for 10th); Criminal
Minds, 11.2 million (fifth) and a 2.9 (fourth); and CSI, 10.5
These dramas also pull in a large number of 25-54 year olds. NCIS has a
4.7 rating in that demo, the highest among TV dramas. NCIS: Los Angeles
has a 4.0 in that demo, Criminal Minds a 3.8, Person of Interest a
3.7 and The Mentalist a 3.4. But that's what a "broad"-cast
network is supposed to do -- draw a broad-ranged audience of all ages. CBS is
not MTV, but neither is ABC or NBC, or even Fox.
Needless to say, CBS stacks up well with other broadcast networks. ABC's
freshman hit Once Upon a Time, which averages 9.4 million viewers
(12th), also averages a 3.0 18-49 rating, along with a higher 3.7 rating in the
25-54 demo, the same rating as CBS' Person of Interest and higher than The
Mentalist, which are both perceived as older-skewing shows.
Ditto ABC's Grey's Anatomy, which competes head-to-head with Person
of Interest on Thursdays at 9. Grey's averages 8.4 million viewers,
3.4 million less than Person of Interest. It does win out in the 18-49
demo, 3.0 to 2.6, but in the 25-54 demo, Grey's is only a tenth of a
rating point less than POI, 3.6 to 3.7.
On the comedy side, the all-inclusive demo picture is similar to dramas. CBS' The
Big Bang Theory is the most-watched sitcom on television with an average
13.8 million viewers per episode. It is first in the 18-49 demo category with a
4.5 rating, but also first in the 25-54 demo with a 5.8.
CBS' Two and a Half Men draws the second-largest sitcom viewership with
13.2 million, averages a 4.4 18-49 demo rating and a second-highest 5.5 in the
25-54 demo. CBS' Mike & Molly averages 10.4 million viewers, a 3.3
18-49 rating and a 4.4 25-54 rating, while 2 Broke Girls averages 10.3
million viewers, a 3.8 18-49 rating and a 4.7 25-54 rating.
When the goal of your buy is mass-reach numbers, you're obviously going to get
a healthy portion of assorted demo groups. But that's what a broadcast network
program is supposed to do and that's what differentiates it from cable
networks, many of which are more finely targeted. If you want to target, rather
that mass reach, maybe broadcast is not where an advertiser should be.
But when upfront negotiations begin and the CBS sales folks are holding out for
higher CPMs while the other networks are doing deals at lower price hikes,
based on the ratings numbers there will be some justification for CBS taking a
hardline position. And when Les Moonves is out there lobbying for double-digit
increases, the numbers say maybe he's not just blowing smoke.