Meet TV's Quiet Champions: Shows With Commercial Ratings on the Rise

'Castle,' Person of Interest,' 'The Middle' Aren't TV's Buzziest, But They Are Schedule Stalwarts

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They don't get the chatter -- or ratings -- accorded "American Idol" or "Sunday Night Football," but a select number of "quiet" programs housed on TV's prime-time grid are slated to do something even more beneficial to the networks that house them: grow their household commercial ratings season over season.

According to Ad Age 's annual survey of ad buyers' projected commercial ratings , the programs listed below are among those expected to draw more people who watch the ads that accompany them compared with projections from last season. Known in the industry as "C3," commercial ratings , or a measure of the number of people who don't skip past or ignore the commercials that accompany viewings of a program live or up to three days after it airs, are the way TV networks get paid and a key element in how advertisers decide to allocate their ad dollars.

To be sure, our survey looked at household commercial ratings , a good proxy for the broad viewership of a program. But advertisers hone in on the audience between 18 and 49 that watches a program and its commercials. So there may well be some discrepancies. But we think it's a relatively safe bet that a program able to increase its household commercial ratings often does the same in various demographic categories as well. We welcome feedback from network scheduling and research departments.

We focused largely on TV's unsung heroes: TV shows that have been on the air for at least a season, but may have lost some of the hype and promotional momentum accorded them when they launched. Sure, we could have featured NBC's "The Voice," which ad buyers expect to increase its household C3 to a 6.0 from a projected 5.23 last season, but does that really surprise anyone? Instead, we chose to hone in on some programs that may tread slightly below the radar and aren't the subject of TMZ reports and E! profiles every other day. Take a look:

ABC's "Castle," Monday nights at 10 p.m. Fed largely by audiences tuning in to "Dancing with the Stars" or "The Bachelor," Castle continues to muster a decent-sized crowd -- approximately 11.8 million season to date through July 22 , according to Nielsen. Ad buyers predict the program, set to enter its fifth season, will increase its household commercial rating to a 5.7 from last year's projection of 5.55 -- and this comes even as buyers anticipate "Dancing with the Stars" to see C3 declines.

ABC's "The Middle," Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. Here's a quiet family sitcom that is expected to gain an estimated commercial rating of 4.25, compared with an estimated 4.09 last season and an estimated 4.1 in 2009. You don't hear a lot about "The Middle," but it's a broad comedy that focuses on a white family in the Midwest and may have more general appeal across the nation than even a "Modern Family" that includes so many different nods to emerging demographics. Advertisers have seen its power. When Volkswagen chose to air a canine-themed teaser for its Super Bowl adthis year, it chose to debut it during this program.

Fox's "Bones," Monday nights at 8 p.m. At first glance, this aging procedural looks as if its taking just one ginger step forward. Ad buyers expect its average household commercial ratings to move to 4.3 from last year's estimate of 4.2. Take into account how that 4.3 compares to what was on in "Bones's" new time slot last season. Moving "Bones" to Monday from Thursday gives the show a slightly better commercial rating, but puts something on Fox's Monday-night schedule that is epected to fare better than the disappointing "Terra Nova," which last year was estimated to notch an average commercial rating of about 4.11. For Fox, which faces Mondays without "House" for the first time in years, the sign, while slight, is an encouraging one.

CBS's "Person of Interest," Thursday nights at 9 p.m. Meet Thursday's new drama champ. Clearly, spy-serial "Person of Interest" is going to get beat handily by Fox's "American Idol," but among scripted programs, this is the show that ad buyers have given their highest commercial-ratings estimates. Let's be clear: With "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and A Half Men" as lead-ins, "Person of Interest" would have to spend an hour showing paint drying in order to shuck the audience. Even so, with "Two and A Half Men" expected to lose commercial ratings as it moves to Thursday from Monday, "Person of Interest" is seen generating a 7.4, up from last year's estimated 7.09. Only "Idol" and "Big Bang Theory" fare better. For a sophomore program, that 's pretty impressive.

CBS's "Blue Bloods," Friday nights at 10 p.m. We realize this Tom Selleck-helmed cop show reaches slightly more than 2 million people between the ages of 18 and 49, but the audience for this drama -- which does indeed regularly feature pharmaceutical ads that seem aimed at people of retirement age -- is increasingly tuning in for the ads as well. Ad buyers see "Blue Bloods" generated an average household commercial rating of 6.2, up from last season's estimated 5.9 -- the best for Friday night and more than is expected from "Two and A Half Men" on its new Thursday-night berth.

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