February 17, 2012

The Sked: Upscale Ratings — ABC Profile

>Previously we examined the upscale ratings picture of the Monday at 10 pm hour, which showed the first few episodes of Smash as solidly upscale, Hawaii Five-0 as fairy downscale and Castle in the middle.  Today we turn our attention to ABC’s schedule, which is averaging a 2.4 rating with Adults 18-49 for its regularly scheduled programs this season to date.  However, the regular schedule averages a 2.7 rating with Adults 18-49 in $100K+ income homes.  This translates to a 113 index (100=average and anything above 100 indicates an upscale skew overall), one of the highest concentrations of high-income viewers on network television.

ABC’s schedule is paced by the most upscale program on TV, Modern Family with a 158 $100K+ index.  But index only tells part of the story, as it simply measures concentration of high-income viewers.  Modern Family is also toward the top of the ratings charts, ranked #5 with Adults 18-49 (5.6 rating season to date) and ranked even higher (#3) with Adults 18-49 in $100K+ income homes (8.8 rating season to date).  This is important because other shows like NBC’s 30 Rock have a very high index (152) but much lower absolute ratings levels (#87 and a 1.6 rating with young adults versus #55 and a 2.4 rating with upscale young adults).  To make these distinctions clear, we divided all network programs into high, medium and low levels on two measures: upscale index and overall young adult rating.  Modern Family is the perfect example of a show that fits into the high rating-high upscale index, a holy grail for advertisers since it reaches a large audience that is highly concentrated with upper income viewers. 

High Rating-Upscale Shows.  In addition to Modern Family, ABC has two other programs in this most desirable category: Grey’s Anatomy (116 index) and Dancing with the Stars (110 index, just barely making the cut).

High Rating-Midscale Shows.  Only one other ABC show is above the 3.2 rating level (our defintion for a high rating), freshman fantasy drama Once Upon a Time with an almost perfectly average 101 upscale index.  Although its ratings could very well grow in its second and third seasons, chances are the 101 index will not change very much, given historical patterns.

Downscale Shows.  ABC has no shows in the high rating-downscale category (as opposed to say, CBS — the next post will show many of The Eye’s crime dramas have high ratings but relatively few upper income viewers).  In addition, ABC has relatively few programs in the other downscale categories (middle rating-downscale and low rating-downscale).   Wipeout (89) and The River (87), as well as the now-cancelled Charlie’s Angels (81) and Extreme Makeover Home Edition (76), are examples.

Low Rating ShowsABC also has relatively few shows in the other low rating categories (low rating-midscale and low rating-upscale — as opposed to NBC, which has more than its share of upscale-skewing programs with tiny audiences). 

Middle Rating-Upscale Shows.  By default, ABC has a disproportionate number of shows with middling ratings but a upscale skews.  The Bachelor has a terrific upscale index (142), but it is on the downside of the ratings curve.  In contrast, Happy Endings (139 index) and Revenge (130) have a high proportion of upper-income viewers could find themselves moving up to the high rated category with a little patience and luck.  The same cannot be said of Pan Am (129 index): while its upscale skew remains strongly positive, the ratings are headed in the wrong direction and would be classified as a low rating show if we only looked at the last few months.

Finally, as the chart below shows, the once signature series Desperate Housewives (100 index) finds itself in the middle of the pack, undistinguished as a middle rating-midscale show.  Nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just showing its age as a show that has migrated from the upper right box, where it burst upon the scene.  Last Man Standing (94 index) is starting its career in the middle box.  In the absolute best case scenario, it might move up the chart (although I wouldn’t bet on higher ratings in coming seasons).  However, it has virtually no chance of moving to the right (more upscale in the future).  Like Home Improvement, Last Man Standing will always be solidly midscale and probably should be very happy with a 94 index.

In the next post on upscale ratings we will turn to CBS, which is more concentrated in the upper left section of the chart (high rating but midscale to downscale).


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."