February 22, 2012

The Sked: Upscale Ratings — NBC Profile

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>NBC is the focus of our final profile of network performance with upscale viewers.  The good news for the Peacock is that many of its programs have a disproportionate share of viewers in homes with yearly incomes over $100,000.  Yet far too many of these NBC shows have a very small overall audience size.  While the network skews upscale, the network overall doesn’t deliver a critical mass of viewers, especially in the entertainment portion of the schedule (factoring out Sunday Night Football).  Click on “read more” to see the updated chart, with NBC’s programs in pink. 

Sunday Night Football.  The NFL on Sunday absolutely makes the NBC schedule.  The weekly prime time football game is in the coveted upper tier of the chart below: a very high overall rating and a strong upscale skew (121 index).  The show ranks #2 with Adults 18-49 season to date but rises to #1 among Adults 18-49 in $100K+ homes.  When the NFL Sunday game is included in NBC’s season average, the network scores a 2.8 rating with Adults 18-49 (just behind CBS and FOX’s 2.9 and ahead of ABC’s 2.4).  However, when we look at Adults 18-49 in $100K+ homes, NBC’s season average rises all the way to a 3.2 (far above FOX’s 2.8, ABC’s 2.7 and CBS’s 2.6).  NBC’s upscale index of 116 beats ABC’s 113 and far ahead the more downscale skews for FOX (96) and CBS (91).     

But sadly for NBC, the NFL goes away after the fourth quarter, when the rest of the schedule has to carry the load.  And what is the shape of that non-NFL slate?  Not good.  Without the NFL, NBC’s regular programs season to date averages a 1.8 with Adults 18-49 and a 2.1 with upper-income Adult 18-49.  While that is still a positive 112 index, the rating levels are not anywhere near the other networks. 

Monday Night.  Of course, NBC also has The Voice, its other good news of the season.  At a 107 upper-income index, the show is tantalizingly close to the upper right section of our chart.  But it is really a moot point what side of an arbitrary line the show falls on: The Voice is a major hit, it is on the upswing, and it forms a foundation for NBC Mondays from 8 to 10 pm.  In contrast, while Smash appears in the high-rated/ upscale section of our chart below, remember that is based on the first two episodes only.  The show’s ratings are rapidly falling each week, and in a few weeks it will place in the lower end of our “middle rating” range.  While it will maintain a very good upper-income skew (currently 135), Smash is destined to become another Parenthood and not Modern Family or Glee.

The Office, Parks and Recreation and Parenthood.  And that’s precisely the problem.  NBC doesn’t need another drama like Parenthood.  The NBC schedule is filled with high upscale index values (The Office (155), Parks and Recreation (155), 30 Rock (152), and even Whitney or Community (both 135) or The Firm (132).  But those shows tend to be at the very low-rated section of the chart or in the middle-rated section and trending lower with each passing week.  Although viewers of these niche programs are more likely to have high incomes and are better educated than average, there just aren’t many viewers of the programs, relative to other broadcast networks.  At this point in the NBC rebuild, the network can sacrifice an extremely high upscale index in favor of a high rating. 

In case you missed them, catch up on the other upscale profiles for ABC, CBS and FOX.


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."