NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ask any TV-network executive how many new shows fail each season, and the answer they give you is somewhere between 75% and 80% -- and then they'll tell you they're being kind.
New data from a company that studies consumers' emotional attachment to TV shows and advertisers' products aim to cushion that launch-and-crash process that is so much a part of any fall-TV calculation. According to NewMediaMetrics, a Jericho, N.Y., company that has provided consumer analysis to marketers including Kraft and Procter & Gamble, CBS and Fox appear to have the new programs that will instill the highest levels of "emotional attachment" in TV viewers.
CBS's revival of "Hawaii Five-0" is at present the show expected to bring in the most emotionally attached viewers, according to NewMediaMetrics, followed by CBS's sharply-titled sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says." Two new Fox sitcoms, "Running Wilde" and "Raising Hope," come in third and fourth, followed by CBS's new sitcom about a couple with weight issues, "Mike & Molly."
NewMediaMetrics conducts an online study with a sample of 3,043 people between the ages of 18 and 54. All respondents rate their attachment levels to all media properties.
Since when is the ability to capture an emotionally attached viewer a litmus test for TV success? It's not. But TV executives and ad buyers acknowledge this sort of stuff will likely become more important. "I'd say almost every advertiser has some way of evaluating today programs that their target audience and their core consumer is most passionate about and most engaged with," said Kris Magel, exec VP-director of national broadcast at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative. "Nobody is just looking at the demos."
Identifying rabid fans of TV shows has already become a strategy the TV networks use to promote their new programs. Fox spent a good part of the summer and late spring of 2009 touting "Glee" to interested fans while ABC put on a big web blitz to get sci-fi aficionados talking about its enigmatic conspiracy drama "FlashForward." The theory among TV executives is that highly interested fans start talking and tweeting about their expectations for such shows, and that chatter carries over to other potential viewers.
Sussing out such folk is likely to become more crucial in the industry. Despite any number of new ways consumers have to watch video entertainment -- from screening them on iPods to calling them up on-demand via a cable box -- the success or failure of a TV show has long hinged on the number of people who tune in to watch at a specific time. As more consumers obtain technology that lets them watch a favorite TV program at times of their own choosing, however, the audience for the more traditional way of watching TV is dwindling.
Should new measures taking viewer interest into account gain traction, the pecking order of TV shows could radically shift. Nielsen's IAG, a company that measures viewer recall of and response to TV shows and TV commercials, found programs such as NBC's "Chuck" and ABC's "The Middle" -- both of which have reached well under 7 million viewers on average season to date as of Aug. 1, according to Nielsen -- often strike a deeper chord with the smaller audiences that watch them than powerhouse programs such as "American Idol."
Executives at NewMediaMetrics say they have found a strong correlation between determining levels of "emotional attachment" for programs and actual Nielsen ratings . The firm said it found an 85.5% correlation in 2009 between shows that attracted a strong preponderance of emotionally engaged viewers and Nielsen ratings , and that it found an 87% correlation for the same between 2006 and 2009.
"You want your advertising in a media property the people are highly attached to, because people who are highly attached to TV shows intently view them," said Gary Reisman, a principal at NewMediaMetrics. "If you are highly attached to a show, you are 46% more likely to 'go out of your way to view it,' and 40% more likely to pay attention to the show. In addition, you are more likely to stay with the program through commercial breaks. Most importantly, if you are highly attached to a brand advertised in a media property you are highly attached to, you are 3.2 times more likely to consider buying the brand."
In 2009, NewMediaMetrics predicted the top five new shows would be led by CBS's "NCIS: Los Angeles." That was followed by Fox's "The Cleveland Show," CBS's "Accidentally on Purpose," CBS's "The Good Wife" and ABC's "FlashForward." Of those programs, one was an obvious hit -- "NCIS: Los Angeles" was deemed the breakout hit of the season early in the going. "The Good Wife" and "The Cleveland Show" have been reliable performers. But "Accidentally on Purpose" is not returning for a second season, and "FlashFoward," which got lots of great buzz over the summer, was widely seen as a creative disappointment.
Something to keep in mind: The new shows aren't as popular with audiences as some of TV's mainstays. "Hawaii Five-0" may be the most emotionally engaging new show of the new TV season, for example, but it's trumped by 18 other already-existing programs, including Fox's "Hell's Kitchen," ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and CBS's "Two and a Half Men."