February 24, 2012

The Sked: PROMO WATCH — Update through February 23

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>GCB and the Oscars are the big bets for ABC in recent days, while NBC continues to make an extraordinary push for Awake.  CBS is hoping to take Person of Interest to another level, and FOX just doesn’t seem to be making any choices about what to promote hard.  The most recent Promo Watch numbers are based on prime time broadcast network programming between February 9 and 23, with about 18.5 hours of programming sampled for each network over that period.  (Click “read more” to see the latest chart.)

ABCGCB has become the top priority for ABC over the past few weeks, now averaging 21 seconds per hour sampled in prime time.  ABC has been repeating the same 30-second spot over and over (the rhyming spot with “witches” and “riches” instead of the expected “bitches” from the original series title).  The spot is not particularly clever, but ABC is hoping the repetition of the show’s premise will cut through.  With a last minute rush of Oscar spots (often over 30 seconds per hour on recent nights), the Academy Awards spots have moved into the #2 priority position, averaging 17 seconds per hour over the past two weeks (after being in the high single digits recently).  Of note, the spots promote the Oscar app and almost as much as the show itself.  (Clips of the still niche The Artist and visuals of Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are not going to persuade marginal viewers to tune in.)  Revenge remains a fairly important priority (16 seconds per hour), as ABC keeps trying to make it break out  from the 2.5 range into the high-2 rating area.  Scandal is now averaging 11 seconds an hour (up sharply from the middle single digits).  That number is going to continue to rise as we move through March.  Missing (starring Ashley Judd as a CIA agent/ mom searching for her son) is holding at 9 seconds per hour.  It looks like it has the production quality of The Firm, and — just a hunch — will not receive much higher promotion levels in coming weeks, as opposed to the Shonda Rhimes project Scandal.

NBCAwake premiering next Thursday at 10 in the dead zone time period is now averaging an amazing 41 seconds per hour over the past two weeks.  If it fails it won’t be for lack of trying.  With Up All Night as its lead in, Awake‘s success will be based on the inherent appeal of the show’s premise, which is described in every spot.  We shall see.  Smash is holding at a very strong 25 seconds per hour over the past two weeks.  As the ratings tumble each week (and during each quarter hour that airs), the network is trying every promo trick in the book to get people to hang on.  Last week it was the sex appeal of the characters and storylines.  This week, it’s a guest star — Nick Jonas?!?  Maybe he has a high Q-score with the target audience for a drama about mounting a Broadway musical, but it seems a little desperate or cheesy for a show that relies on critic quotes like “Wow.  Just wow.”  Fashion Star is holding at 20 seconds per hour, a very solid level for a new reality show.  The Voice, at 10 seconds per hour, is just enough to keep its name out there, and NBC is using the brief promos effectively to dub the night “Must See Monday”.  (At least for the first two hours of the night, it’s a very legitimate claim.) 

CBSPerson of Interest has been anointed by CBS as the new show most worthy of a midseason push.  At 21 seconds per hour the past two weeks, the JJ Abrams-produced freshman number is the #1 priority for the network, which clearly want to see if its ratings can break out of the low-3 range to above a 3.5 rating.  Undercover Boss has received a substantial investment of time the past several nights, moving its average into double digits (11 seconds per hour).  That is low compared to Survivor (19 seconds) and Amazing Race (17), but it is significant for a Friday show, and CBS hopes it can build on the show’s promising initial ratings on the tough night.  Just missing the chart below is Late Show with David Letterman (9 seconds per hour), substantially more than the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (5 seconds) or Jimmy Kimmel Live (3 seconds).  Unless the guest is truly newsworthy, however, late night ratings are surprisingly inelastic to promo efforts.   

FOXBreaking In has edged up to 12 seconds per hour, up from 10 recently.  And the return of Touch is at a barely-committed 10 seconds per hour.  And pity poor Bob’s Burgers (not shown on the chart below) whose return is starting with a base of 6 seconds per hour.  Not that any of those shows will make much of an impact in any scenario — it’s just that FOX doesn’t seem to be betting on anything.   

                          PROMO WATCH

                    Top Priorities by Network
              On-Air Promo Seconds per Hour Sampled
                 Past Two Weeks (Feb 9-23, 2011)
      ABC                          CBS
     GCB                21        Person of Interest 21
     Oscars             17        Survivor           19
     Revenge            16        Amazing Race       17
     The River          14        Unforgettable      12
     Castle             13        Undercover Boss    11
     Scandal            11

     NBC                          FOX
     Awake              41        Alcatraz           13
     Smash              25        Breaking In        12
     Fashion Star       20        Glee               12
     The Voice          10        Touch              10
                                  New Girl           10


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."