Emmy’s Rich Hidden Value

What some big winners lack in ratings, they make up for in appeal to viewers who are affluent, educated—and in demand.
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Emmys 2010: Complete Coverage from B&C

It is an oft-made observation: TV shows that win Emmys don’t necessarily win viewers. That may be true, but for many advertisers who refuse to read the numbers quite so bluntly, it’s decidedly not the point. For them, it’s not so much the quantity of viewers as it is the quality, at least in terms of the medium’s most upscale programs.

“Some advertisers will pay a slightly higher CPM [cost per thousand] to make sure they get shows that bring in the type of viewer they are after,” says Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for Horizon Media. This is true whether marketers are pushing deodorant or Cadillacs.

For those advertisers, affluence carries influence, and that axiom—especially as it’s related to Emmy honors—is growing more prominent. NBC’s 30 Rock, named outstanding comedy for the past three years, has never even come close to TV’s top 20, but it is consistently the most upscale show. NBC’s The Office, nominated for five Emmys this year, including outstanding comedy and outstanding lead actor in a comedy, is the second-highest-rated show among adults 18-49 who earn $100,000 or more annually.

Driving up CPMs
“Upscale, affluent audiences have the potential to drive viewer CPMs upward,” says Adam Stotsky, NBC Entertainment’s president of marketing. “NBC has an unrivaled historical legacy of delivering upscale and affluent audiences among the broadcast sectors. It’s always important to us to deliver mass with class.”

Beyond comedies, AMC’s Mad Men, named best drama for the past two years, is widely known to be one of TV’s most upscale shows, but it averages only about two million viewers an episode. The show’s fourth-season premiere on July 25 drew 2.9 million viewers, up 5% from the previous year’s opening.

While Mad Men’s pop-culture influence is wide, its viewership is significantly less than that of its top-rated rivals, such as TNT’s The Closer and USA’s Burn Notice, both of which are in the seven million range. AMC’s other critically acclaimed show, Breaking Bad, which has earned a best actor award for lead Bryan Cranston and been nominated for best drama two years in a row, averages even fewer viewers than Mad Men.

“I don’t know if you can put a price tag on what Mad Men has done for AMC,” Adgate says. “Before Mad Men, no one even though of AMC. The show helped them leapfrog into becoming a top-tier cable network.”

“From a brand perspective, it’s a great validation of the quality of our programming,” adds Linda Schupack, AMC’s senior VP of marketing. “We do use that messaging very overtly in terms of our programming. We also have brand campaigns for AMC that talk about us as the most nominated [basic] cable network. Not only is it a validation of the moment, it’s starting to tell a historical story as well.”

That upscale appeal partly explains why lower- rated critically acclaimed shows remain on the air past the point where they would seem to make economic sense: They bring in highend advertisers and help burnish a brand. For a premium network like HBO, the connection is even clearer—the affluent are willing to pay more for better TV, so HBO’s survival depends on pleasing that audience. Winning Emmys is critical because it helps validate HBO’s pitch.

“Emmy acclaim, whether in nomination form or in winning form, is just one more proof point that we use to communicate to our viewers why a particular show is important and should be on must-watch lists,” Stotsky says. “That demarcation of quality has had the potential to introduce a show to viewers who may not have considered it in the past.”

Still, the brass ring remains producing shows that are both critically acclaimed and popular. This past season, lightning struck twice with Fox’s Glee, with 19 Emmy nods, and ABC’s Modern Family, with 14. And both shows also do well among upscale audiences—a rare TV hat trick.

Glee, this year’s most-nominated series, averaged a 4.4 rating/11 share live-plus-seven-day season average in the 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen Media Research, ranking it 15th in the demo. However, among adults 18-49 who earn annual incomes of $100,000 or more, Glee is the third-highest rated show, averaging a 7.1 rating and indexing at 161, according to Fox’s research. (ABC actually has Glee indexing a little higher, at 163.) The index represents a percentage of audience concentration; thus, Glee has an audience of well-heeled 18-49-year-olds that is 63% more concentrated in higher-income viewers than the typical 18-to-49 audience. Reaching that audience is music to advertisers’ ears, and apparently to Emmy voters’ as well.

In fact, the only show ranked higher on the so-called affluence scale is 30 Rock, at 170. Last season, 30 Rock averaged a 3.3 live-plus-sevenday rating among adults 18-49—ranking it 40th in the demo—but a 5.6 among adults 18- 49 earning $100,000 or more.

Similarly, ABC’s Modern Family indexed at 143 and ranked 10th. Comparably, among the general 18-49 audience, Modern Family averaged a 4.0/10 and ranked 21st. And NBC’s The Office indexes at 163 among upscale viewers, and averages a 7.45 rating in that demo. Among general adults 18-49, The Office was ranked 12th, at a 4.6/11.

Other nominated shows scoring high upscale rankings include ABC’s Lost, which comes in fifth at 158 (and seventh among the general 18-49 population), and NBC’s Parks and Recreation, which is ranked 14th at 138 (but 67th overall), tying ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and NBC’s Marriage Ref.

These types of shows also seem to resonate with adults 18-49 who have four-year college degrees. On that index, 30 Rock is the highestranked at 189, according to ABC’s research, with The Office close behind at 186. (In fact, NBC’s entire Thursday-night comedy lineup ranks high among the affluent and the educated. Community, which wasn’t nominated for any Emmys, indexes at 141 among affluent adults and at 162 among educated adults.) Other nominated shows that the educated tend toward include Lost at 162, Glee at 160 and Modern Family at 148.


Index information was not available on the cable side, but shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad make a point of appealing to higher-end demographics, with subtle and complex story lines and complicated characters. It’s the sort of erudite programming that turned HBO into the place to go for high-end shows—and the network is again by far the most Emmy-honored, with 101 nominations, two more than last year.

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Mad Men is probably the most upscale show on TV,” Schupack points out. “That supports our belief that we are premium programming on basic cable. Our shows [are] really highly valued and prized by this highly desired demographic.”

Happy just to be nominated
To capitalize on awards, AMC “layers Emmy nods and wins into our advertising where and when appropriate,” Schupack says. “A 30-second spot may refer to the Emmy-nominated Mad Men, and we may also call that out in digital or print advertising. But those who know it know that it’s a high-quality show, so we don’t have to always clutter our ads with mentions of Emmy nominations.”

NBC Universal’s Bravo, with six nominations this year, uses the Emmys as an industry stamp of approval, according to Ellen Stone, Bravo’s senior VP of marketing. “When we get an Emmy, it shows that we are able to tell a story in a way that is compelling and relevant, and that the industry understands and approves,” she says. “The audience understands what an Emmy means. It helps us give them a quick, telegraphic note that says we represent higher quality.”

Critical acclaim is a bigger focus for some networks than others, but everyone can agree that winning awards is never a bad thing. “Emmy nominations and wins represent critical reception of a show,” says Jeff Gregor, Turner’s chief marketing officer. This year, TNT earned three acting Emmy nominations, including a fifth consecutive nomination for The Closer’s Kyra Sedgwick. “For Turner, it’s not just about awards, but we are happy with Emmy nominations as part of our success.”

Still, everyone seeks the ultimate validation stamps of acclaim and popularity. AMC aims to be the HBO of basic cable, while Turner would rather have the broad appeal of a CBS. But achieving both is ideal—with a high upscale index thrown in for good measure.

“Emmys demonstrate that there’s good critical acclaim for broadcast shows and cable shows, and enforces that there’s one TV world,” Gregor says. “It’s all about great programming no matter what network it’s on.”

E-mail comments to palbiniak@nbmedia.com and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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