That simple strategy for last week's episode of "Ellen" contributed to viewing levels that surprised even the most veteran ratings prognosticators. But not SPINdex.
With an incredible 161 news stories in SPINdex's sample of influential print and electronic media outlets during the month leading up to its airing, the special coming-out episode of "Ellen" generated far more media attention than any other similar TV series stunt analyzed in this special edition of SPINdex.
In fact, network TV news programs devoted almost as much airtime-19.5 minutes-discussing "Ellen's" coming out as did the episode itself. And with 104,811 words of copy, the episode scored sufficient media impressions to qualify as a "national affairs" story by SPINdex's standards.
While such media attention doesn't always translate directly into ratings success, "Ellen" was a prime example of a case where it did. Its 23.4 national Nielsen household rating was 144% higher than its season-to-date average.
A different kind of lesbian encounter-the March 1, 1994, episode of "Roseanne" in which the title character kissed a lesbian character, portrayed by Mariel Hemingway-did not generate nearly as strong a correlation between pre-airing hype and ratings improvement. But all other special episodes tracked by SPINdex did show major ratings gains over their season averages.
Despite 101 stories generating 73,230 words of copy and 10.5 minutes of network news time during the month leading up to its airing, the "Roseanne" episode improved on its season average by only 9%.
By comparison, the Jan. 28, 1996, special post-Super Bowl episode of NBC's "Friends" attracted 1,255 stories that produced 79,219 words of copy and 9 minutes of network news time, resulting in a 58% ratings gain over its regular season average. The Sept. 21, 1993, series premiere of ABC's "NYPD Blue" attracted 47 news stories and delivered a Nielsen rating 17% higher than its first-season average.
The surprise performer in this edition of SPINdex was the March 1, 1994, episode of "The Simpsons," during which Maggie Simpson spoke for the first time. The episode garnered only modest media coverage-15 stories allotting 27,042 words of