Unfortunately, that has TNS Media Intelligence prognosticating this year's Emmy Awards could challenge historical ratings lows since fewer people tend to tune into TV in late August than in mid-September. Not only that, but many of TV's most popular programs -- ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," HBO's "Sopranos" -- are underrepresented after the ladies from Wisteria Lane, Tony and Carmela and the castaways were snubbed in the nomination process for best actors and actresses.
Of course everyone knows awards-show ratings have been in a dive for the past several years -- except, TNS pointed out in a recent report, the Emmys, which drew a 12.5 household rating in 2005, compared to an 11.6 in 1999. TNS also said it's the cheapest for an advertiser to buy into, making it more sensitive to the ratings cycle and pricing power of the host network. Last year, the average cost of a 30-second spot on the Emmys, which aired on CBS, was 528,000 -- a CPM of $32.66. Still, that's a premium over the network's typical CPM of $18.42, according to TNS.
The number of entertainment awards shows has ballooned 45%. In the 1997-1998 broadcast season there were 22 entertainment-awards shows. This season there are 32, reports TNS. Jon Swallen, senior VP-research, TNS, blames some of the ratings declines awards shows have experienced on that proliferation.
"It's diluted, for lack of a better word, the 'specialness' of those programs," he said. "The concept is built around star power, pop culture, but when there are 50 a year, they lose some of the cachet and they become more ordinary."
The Big Four -- Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys and Emmys -- still take in about half of all entertainment-awards-show ad revenue, said Mr. Swallen. "They're the top of the pyramid."
And the Emmy telecast can be an especially good time for the host network to promote its own shows -- after all, signs indicate that the audience watching tends to like TV.
TNS took a look at the promotional strategies for each of the four major broadcast networks during the past four years. In 2003, it notes, Fox hosted and had hardly any nominations -- so 90% of its time was spent promoting its new season. ABC employed a similar strategy in 2004 when "8 Simple Rules" and "The Practice" were the two most-nominated shows.
This year, NBC is flooded with nominations for "The West Wing" and "Will & Grace" -- both programs that ended their runs in May. But it also has a respectable number of nods for "The Office" and "My Name is Earl" -- which means you can expect the Thursday-night comedy block to get plugged.