March 29, 2012

The Sked: PROMO WATCH — Update through March 26 & Why So Few Promos on CBS?

>The most recent Promo Watch numbers are based on prime time broadcast network programming between March 20 and March 26, with about 8 hours of programming sampled for each network over that period.  (Click “read more” to see the latest chart.)

ABCScandal has crossed into a saturation level on on-air promotion, now up to 49 seconds per hour over the course of the past week (up from 31 seconds per hour the past two weeks).  While there is an occasional 15-second promo for Scandal, most are the full length 30-second variety. In contrast, Missing has dropped again, now down to a still decent 24 seconds per hour.  Don’t Trust the B- in Apt 23 continues to be given a fairly restrained 20 seconds per hour, with a campaign that has shifted its focus from the “Bitch” to the relationship with her roommate.  (Briefly, the promos for the show featured the classic “Odd Couple” theme underneath the dialogue.) 

NBC.  After the debacle that is Bent (creatively and in terms of puny audience size), it’s not exactly a full-court press for Best Friends Forever: it has received on-air promotion at a rate of 10 seconds per hour over the past week.  Support for Awake, Fashion Star and Smash has been the main focus of NBC promotion the past week, with each tied for first place with 19 seconds per hour.  All that time might be a complete waste, however: the verdicts are in on Awake and Fashion Star: the audience has rejected the shows.  As for Smash, normally it would make sense to continue to try to attract viewers to a marginal hit, but with the show creatively weakening (and a new show runner coming next season) it would make more sense to give it a real push and a solid re-launch when it is back on its feet in terms of quality.  Not making our chart (which cuts off at 10 seconds per hour), Betty White’s Off Their Rockers has averaged a small 7 seconds per hour but might be a pleasant surprise for NBC in the ratings (like the special preview was) based on the enduring appeal of Ms. White and the concept of old people punking the young.    
CBS.  With few shows to launch, CBS has the least amount of time devoted to on-air promotion.  Part of the explanation is the number of hours devoted to the NCAA Basketball Tournament (which has a format light on promo time, like most live sports do), but also it appears that CBS has converted promo time to commercial time in the non-sports programs.  Given their relatively strong ratings versus the other broadcasters, CBS is in the position to sell additional commercial units in the “scatter market” (commercial time purposely not sold in the “upfront market” during the early summer).  One of the most important calculations a network makes involves putting a real value on each promotional unit.  For example, will an extra 30 seconds of on-air promotion really build awareness of and intention to view a new show?  Will that time really bring more people to an existing show?  Or is that time better used by the sales force to bring in extra revenue when the ad market is hot?  Some networks are loathe to turn promo time — even temporarily — over to advertising sales (and would rather promote a weak new show or a banal episode of a current show).  CBS is not one of those networks.        

FOXTouch receded to 29 seconds per hour this past week following its re-launch, but it remains the network’s top priority.  The return of Bones follows with 22 seconds per hour, with a fairly straight-ahead campaign heavy on the trademark banter between the two leads and a lot of focus on the upcoming arrival of Bones’ baby.       

                          PROMO WATCH

                    Top Priorities by Network
              On-Air Promo Seconds per Hour Sampled
                   Past Week (Mar 20-26, 2011)
      ABC                          CBS
     Scandal            49        Acad.Country Music 12
     Missing            24        Letterman          11
     Don’t Trust the B  20        NYC 22             11
     GCB                20        NCIS                9
     Once Upon a Time   18        Unforgettable       8
     Body of Proof      14
     Dancing with Stars 14
     Desperate Houeswvs 12

     NBC                          FOX
     Awake              19        Touch              29
     Fashion Star       19        Bones              22
     Smash              19        New Girl           17
     The Voice          13        American Idol      11
     Best Friends Forev 10        Glee               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."