Class notes for Tuesday, February 8, 2000.




I. Demographics and Market Segments

1. Young Viewers (teens, pre teens)

Shows about teens and people under 25 dominate the 38 new shows in 1999-2000 season. Most networks, except for CBS, are clearly aiming at a young audience.

All of the networks want younger viewers

Most shows on most networks pitched at younger viewers

(Some exceptions, such as Touched by an Angel on CBS)


Targeting 18-34 year olds, 8-10 p.m., 6 major networks


per cent












Youth market approach especially pronounced in newer networks, such as WB (with shows such as Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, Roswell) and on UPN (with shows such as Smackdown).


(a) MTV.

MTV was launched in 1981 by Warner Communications; purchased by Viacom in 1985. Its core audience is aged 12 to 23. It’s on 24 hours a day; music videos constitute about 80 per cent of programming time. MTV is a huge financial success. In 1996, Viacom made a profit of $200m on revenue of $430m. MTV benefits from a cheap supply of programming, getting most of its videos from record companies for free. It benefits from a strong advertising market (given its audience), rising fees from cable TV operators. Its heavy concentration of young viewers keep it popular with advertisers.

The top rated MTV show is Real World. In the past year or so, that show has dealt with alcoholism, as one of the college students on the show has a drinking problem (Ruthie Alcaide). Viewership is up (up 41% over last year and more than double the show’s ratings during its first year in 1992). Ruthie drop out last summer to go into alcohol treatment after careening out of control on camera. Last summer, viewers saw her drunk, sick, and having her stomach pumped in an ambulance. She’s back, though.

Another highly popular MTV show is Celebrity Death match. Started in January 1998 during Super Bowl halftime. (Spice Girls brawled with Hanson fo r the title of the Most Annoying Band in the World).

b. WB network.

Reliance on sex to woo teens and pre teens.

Dawson, Felicity, and others.

1999-2000 shows copy their success.

Wasteland (dead ringer for Felicity). Six 20-somethings move to NYC to find themselves. Written by Kevin Williamson (creator of Dawson’s Creek, Scream).

Actually, six new shows in 1999-2000 copy the style of Felicity and Dawson’s Creek.


The problems of CBS.

Tough times in the past few years.

Viewership oldest on TV.

Murder She Wrote: Popular show but popular with older audiences. Killed it.

Greatest success: Touched by an Angel. But also a show for older viewers.

Angels (Roma Downey as Monica, Della Reese as Tess) help people find peace and God. Their key message: no matter how bleak things seem, you are loved. God has a plan for you.

(Spinoffs: Promised Land on CBS, 7th Heaven on WB).

Young angels in the future?

2. Males

Over-all, the most prized demographic.

(a) Seinfeld.

Seinfeld. Popular in general, but very popular with men.

Final show had a 42 rating and a 58 share.

Ad costs on the final show were $1.5 to $1.7m.

Surpassed costs on Super Bowl XXXII, tied XXXIII.

When Seinfeld was gone, NBC ratings dropped more than 20 per cent on average, with a 40 percent drop among young men 18-34.

(b) Martial Law

CBS show that replaced Dr. Quinn. Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman had been on CBS for years, drawing about 13 million viewers. CBS dumped Dr. Quinn in 1998, however, putting a new show in that Saturday night time slot. The show was deemed a success, even though it was drawing about 11.3m viewers -- fewer viewers than Dr. Quinn had drawn.


Dr. Quinn was popular with women and skewed to an older crowd (women over 30) while Martial Law was popular with young men (an audience segment perceived to be the biggest spending, hardest to attract, audience). The show itself copies the movie Rush Hour.

(c) Sports.

Probably the most important type of programming on television today.

Most lucrative, most expensive, and most likely to draw males.


 Most watched shows, 1997-1998.

1. Super Bowl XXXII

2. Academy Awards

3. Seinfeld Special (May1998)

4. Super Bowl XXXII post game

5. World Series Game 7.


TV ratings,February16-22, 1998, during Nagano Olympics

Olympics (Fri)


Olympics (Wed)


ABC Movie




Olympics (Mon)


60 Minutes


Olympics (Thu)


Olympics (Tu)









William F. Gloede, editor in chief of the trade publication Media Week (New York City) writes: "The NFL is without question the most efficient delivery vehicle for men. There’s really no place to go if you want that audience."

TV ratings, January 25-31, 1999

Super Bowl


SB Postgame


SB Pregame


Postgame II






Family Guy










In the Nielsen ratings for January 19-25, 1998, the top there shows were Super Bowl XXXII (44.5 rating), Super Bowl Postgame (33.4) and Super Bowl Kick off (Pregame), 32.5.

In 1997, among TV specials, sports dominated: (1) Super Bowl with a rating of 46 (2) Super Bowl Post Game, 43.3 (3) Academy Awards, 27.4 (4) World Series Game 7, 42.5 (5) NBC Finals Game #5, 20.1 (6) NCAA Basketball Championships, 18.9 (7) NBA Finals Game 6, 18.5 (8) Sugar Bowl, 17.9 (9) World Series Game 5, 17.2 and NFL National Conference Playoffs 17.1

In 1998, TV networks signed contracts for $17.6 billion for 4 year rights to professional football. Being able to offer football programming can be enormously important. CBS lost its rights to football coverage in 1994, and its ratings went down (and it lost a sizable chunk of young, male viewers). CBS got football again in 1998, and its ratings are up in general and its draw for young males has increased greatly.

The 1998 deal included the following: CBS for AFL Conference games, Fox for NFC games, ESPN for Sunday night cable rights and ABC for Monday night football.

This deal firmly established the NFL as the most important -- and richest -- program supplier in television.

Can television afford this? Some say no. Some advertisers insist they won’t pay substantially higher ad rates (but look at the 2000 Super Bowl rates! Of course advertisers will pay high rates, if the audience is the one they want). Others say that football, no matter what the cost, is something television cannot afford to lose. It’s not just a simple correlation between what it costs and its revenues. Its worth translates into ratings elsewhere on a network. Networks use some of the ad time during football games to plug their own shows -- and thus to lure this highly desirable market segment into the rest of their programming.

In January 1998, NBC put a special THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN on right after Super Bowl XXXII. Because of some questionable scheduling moves, Third Rock’s ratings had fallen off greatly in autumn 1997. So, in January 1998, NBC "reintroduced" the show to the public. The story line (note): Invasion of a group of aggressive and spectacularly beautiful women who want to take over the world. Big audience draw after Super Bowl (promos during game to draw the audience); ratings much higher after that.

Peter Chrisanthopolous, president for broadcasting and programming at Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide, a major advertising agency: "Football is a terrific franchise for the networks that carry it. But it’s also a valuable property for advertisers because it reaches upscale men in large numbers."

Beyond that, there’s really almost nothing that does so well in terms of ratings on TV. Sports, and especially football, is the best way to assemble a large audience (and about the only way to assemble a large audience these days). The Super Bowl is usually the most watched program each year; second place = Academy Awards.

Because of costs:

I. Pre game shows.

II. Lots of commercials.

January 10, 1999.

Playoff game on Fox. Minnesota v. Arizona.

Rating 27.5.

Duration of program: 3 hours, 7 minutes.

Duration of game: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Commercials: 36.5 minutes.

Promotions: 5.5 minutes (1.5 minutes to Pjs, 2 minutes for Ally, Xfiles, Simpsons). Pjs debut most watched show of the season on Fox.

III. Affiliates have to pay more.

ABC affiliates are paying ABC $45m a year to help pay for the high price of Monday Night Football.


Fox, NBC and their cable partners paid $400m a year (for six years) to NASCAR for broadcast and cable rights to NASCAR races. NASCAR is the second highest rated sport on TV after National Football League. It is a slickly run league with popular drivers, deeply entrenched sponsors and extraordinarily loyal customers. Ratings pretty good, running about 6 on broadcast and 3 to 4 on cable. As one writer notes, "Sports ratings at those levels are rare in this era of fragmented viewing habits and scores of channel options."


In late 1999, CBS signed a $6 billion, 11 year TV rights deal with the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s college basketball championship tournament (more than double the earlier deal). Ratings have been dropping some for the tournament show, but still at 26.3 in 1999. Even with a ratings drop, showing these games can be a good idea. As the New York Times noted, "However, the games serve as a promotional platform for the network to reach an elusive audience of young men, and as the broadcast network audiences continue to decline, big events such as sports are becoming a lot more valuable."






$$ (b)


















NBC, Turner






Growing market, especially among young men.

Pro wrestling is an extremely lucative business. It pulls in a lot of viewers, dominates cable TV rankings and delivers millions of males (18 to 34) to advertisers. There are two major organizations(World Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Federation). WWF most successful right now. 110 wrestlers work for WWF; they do not own the characters they play. So if a wrestler leaves WWF, he/she does not take the character with them. WWF’s flagship TV program is Raw is War; top rated cable TV program for 19 consecutive weeks in 1999.

Vince McMahon, from WWF.

How to increase audience? "You introduce more soap opera elements than you had before. You introduce more action-adventure elements than every before. You do -- I won’t say comedy -- but you do some humor. You introduce pyrotechnics. You introduce music, being a very nice strong part. When you look at the amount of time of actual wrestling in the ring, it’s not very much. The stories are more important sometimes than what you’re going to resolve physically in the ring."

Wrestling has helped UPN.

After serving as an industry joke for almost 5 years (and losing more than $500m in the process), the sixth rated broadcast network is in the midst of a surprising rebound during the 1999-2000 season. While it remains 6th, its viewership is up 40 percent this season, even as its bigger network competitors are lucky to see gains in the single digits. Its major success this season is the WWF show SMACKDOWN. Major hit, especially with young men. (Other UPN shows targeting young men include Shasta McNasty). Smackdown is averaging 6.6 million viewers and is easily UPN’s highest rated program. It has also served as a strong promotional base for other nights. It has not helped the bottom line in terms of ad revenue, however, as WWF controls most of the advertising.

Advertisers concerned about Smackdown.

In autumn 1999, a series of advertisers withdrew their ads from UPN’s Smackdown, saying that they did not want to be associated with violent, foul-mouth warriors and lewd story lines. So WWF is toning the show down somewhat. It is not eligible for a TV PG rating (for all ages, with parental guidance) compared to its previous rating of TV-14 (14 and older only). WWF’s McMahon: "You’ll see less aggression, less colorful language, less sexuality."

The advertisers who yanked their ads were: Coca Cola, US Army, AT&T, Mars candy and Wrigley.

McMahon: "If our advertisers are saying, ‘we’d like you to tone this down for broadcast, then we’re flexible enough to do this.’"

WWF officials say that the 3% of ad tie going to Coke was quickly filled with ads for movies and from video game companies.

Soap opera aspects of wrestling.

Most of the action is outside the ring -- involving soap opera style plots: feuds between wrestlers, betrayal of a father by his son at the instigation of a mysterious and beautiful woman, abduction of a beautiful woman by an evil man, theft of a soul, ministry of darkness, and so on.


Top cable shows, August 1-8, 1998.

Seinfeld special


WWF, 10 Monday




WWF, 9 Monday


Nascar Winston


WCW, 10 Mon


WWF Special


WCW, 8 Mon


Pacific Blue


WCW, 9 Mon



 Rupert Murdoch.

Dominant force in sports cable TV.

He has turned News Corporation’s Fox Entertainment unit into a partial owner of all but four of the nation’s 23 regional sports networks - cable networks that arrange with professional teams to carry all games that are not picked up by national networks or local broadcasters. Murdoch believes that there are four major components to successful programming (sports, movies, news, children’s programming). Of these, he sees sports as the most important.

Fox has either controlling or significant interest in the five largest cable sports networks (Fox Sports South, MSG, Fox Sports Southwest, Fox Sports West, Fox Sports New York). ESPN still dominates cable sports, with 75 million subscribers nationally, compared with 65m for Murdoch. But Murdoch viewership seems to be growing at a faster rate than ESPN.

Consequences of all of this play themselves out widely. Some sports experts note that major league baseball owners are worried about Murdoch. For example, the Dodgers (owned by Murdoch) recently signed pitcher Kevin Brown to a $105 seven year contract. "It represents Brown’s value not only to the Dodgers but to the Fox media empire -- since what Fox is trying to do is to develop a name for its network by assuring a winning team." So Murdoch has as reason to spend more on contracts.

In 1997, the New York Rangers hockey team offered Joe Sakic $21m to move. Sakic was the center of the Colorado Avalanche team, whose games are carried on a regional Fox network. The Denver region Fox Sports Net effectively provided the cash for the Avalanche to make a competing bid by extending the team’s cable contract and committing $15m for construction of a new arena. Sakic remained in Colorado.


NBA is launching its own 24 hour TV network (Wall Street Journal, 9/24/99). Goals: supplement current coverage (through NBC, Turner Broadcasting), provide leverage in next round of contract negotiations with networks.


Internet and Sports.

The old way of finding out about your team: turn on TV, sit through weather reports for the score. New way: turn on your computer, get the score and a lot of other information (including player statistics, play by play rundowns and even fans’ views on the game). Cyberspace a perfect medium for transmitting statistics and sports news. Some sites include CBS sportsline (, the CNN-Sports Illustrated site (, ESPN sportszone(, USA Today ( and Yahoo! Sports (

Wrestling and Teen markets combined.

"Jerry Springer is basically just championship Wrestling performed in street clothes."

Springer show, During one week:





Food throwing


Chairs thrown




Woman v. Woman


Men v. Men


Men v. Women


Torn clothes


Shoe throwing








Springer topics:

Like it or not, I’m pregnant

Quit your sexy job or else.

I’m pregnant by my brother

Wives v. Mistresses

Prostitute moms


Sexual fetishists


Prostitutes’ clients

Love quadrangles

Jilted women


Home wrecking pals



Women’s images on TV influenced by desire to reach male viewers.

Women may control more than 50 per cent of purchases but men control the TV remote.

In the 1998-99 season, 2/3 of the new sitcoms featured men as the lead actor.

Dean Valentine, president of UPN: "The only people that advertisers really want are 28 year old male millionaires, preferably living in Manhattan."

Shows that don’t focus on men have to feature the sort of women that guys might watch. Ally McBeal, says Valentine, is not wearing short skirts for the women who watch the show.


Other programming aimed at men, young men:

American Pie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Big Daddy, South Park, The Man Show, Fox’s Action (which quickly died).

3. Women

Counterpoints: Lifetime, Oxygen

Cable networks emphasizing women’s programming.

Reruns (Cybill, Designing Women) but also some new programming.

Ratings run around 1 (which is common for most cable networks).

Oxygen Media

New cable network for women, established by Geraldine Laybourne (the genius behind kids’ programming on Nickelodeon). The new network has access to about 10m homes, a small fraction of the 68m homes with cable today, and it has no major outlets yet in New York or Los Angeles (its key media markets). Most cablecasters don’t want more channels and many have already signed up Lifetime, the other key cable channel targeting women.This new network, Oxygen Media, will offer 55 hours of original programming a week, which includes a nightly talk show called Exhale (hosted by Candice Bergen).

U.S. News and World Report (31 January 2000) "In a business accustomed to lush profit margins -- and networks so desperate for a cable berth that some have paid carriers up to $14 a household -- Laybourne has refused to ante up more than $1 a subscriber. She is pouring $450 million into her own shows over the next five years rather than into cablecasters’ pockets. ‘That’s why Gerry’s having so much trouble,’ says Leo Hindery (former president of TCI). ‘A lot of cable operators are saying, ‘Screw it, I’m gonna take the money and run.’"

Oxygen has many challenges, including living up to its advance billing. Lifetime, in response, has started more original programming (including a live mid day news program).


4. Older Viewers

CBS, Touched by an Angel

There are some shows on in 1999-2000 that seemed pitched at an older audience.

ABC’s Once and Again. (about divorced, middle aged people finding romance)

CBS’s Judging Amy ( a big hit)

NBC’s West Wing.

All three of these have skewed to an older audience.


Average age of viewers

UPN: 33.7

WB: 24.2

Fox: 33.8

NBC: 42.7

ABC: 43.4

CBS: 52.2



5. Race and television

In summer 1999, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) threatened to sue the major TV networks because of their lack of diversity in programming and production. NAACP noted that the 26 new series scheduled for autumn 1999 on Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC had no actors of colors in leading roles. A coalition of Latino organizations soon joined the outcry.

The exception to this criticism was UPN, which had four new series showing African-Americans (Gronw Ups, Shasta McNasty, Strip and The Parkers). Still, even with UPN, representation of non-whites was minimal on television.

Latinos note that there is a real absence of Latinos on television; other than Cheech Marin on Nash Bridges, "there’s nobody" says one Latino activist. She noted that Latinos make up 11 per cent of the US population but less than 2 per cent of all TV characters. Shows such as "Walker, Texas Ranger" -- which are filmed in states with significant Latino populations-- have no Latinos in them. (One result has been the significant increase of viewership of Spanish-language US network Univision. It’s audience has grown 25% in the past year.)

Part of this stems from a lack of awareness. Kevin Williamson (head writer for Dawson’s Creek and the creator of the three Scream movies) was surprised by critiis of his new show, Wasteland, as unrealistic when it showed a large peer group of New York City 20-somethings in which everyone was white. The writers regrouped in the summer of 1999 and quickly added an African American male, Jeffrey D. Sams, in the role of a prosecutor and love interest. The networks in general hurriedly added minority (mostly African American) cast members to at least 10 shows.

The NAACP has signed agreements with the major networks to increase diversity (in terms of actors shown and also in production roles -- as writers, directors, etc.).

Still, there is intense criticism of entertainment television today for its attitudes toward race. Erin J. Aubry, a writer for the Los Angeles Weekly, says, "With few exceptions, the black television presence has come to mean fetishized ghettosim or insipid vamping on the middle class, buffoonery across the board, nonexistent character development.... The point is that TV pretty much discriminates against anybody who is not lean, handsome and white: Hefty eaters, middle-aged women, awkward teens, glasses wearers, non-spunky seniors, blue-collar workers and more are all pretty much out of the TV picture. Television is, after all, in the business of selling a cultural ideal, however misguided, back to that culture."

There’s an economic aspect to all of this, too. As audiences have fragmented, or splintered, advertisers have increasingly focused on the most lucrative audiences -- and they see those as middle and upper middle (and upper ) class whites. The CEO of the WB network, Jamie Kellner, says that WB makes 85 per cent of its money via the 12-34 year olds it attracts (with shows such as Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, Buffy, etc).

Program directors worry that integrated shows will not attract white audiences.

One TV executive says, "You can’t be a Top 10 show without a lot of white people watching your show." That’s true, but it ignores the fact that we’ve had many integrated shows in the past which have attracted huge audiences -- including "All in the Family" in the 1970s and "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" in the early 1990s. This fear that integrated shows won’t do well with viewers had led to a rise of segregation on TV: with shows that are all white (such as Friends, Frasier) or those that are virtually all black (e.g., Malcolm and Eddie). The latter shows are targeted toward black audiences.


The Black Entertainment Network offers Black Entertainment Television (BET) as an alternative to white-dominated mainstream TV. Bob Johnson, BET founder, is the world’s richest and most powerful African American media baron. He has created a $200 million empire of books, magazines, restaurants and, soon, radio stations. Plus the cable network.


Many African Americans, however, have been highly critical of BET, arguing that it offers low brow shows that stereotype blacks. BET has also had some labor problems. A recent full page ad in Variety ( a leading industry newspaper) taken out by Richard Pryor, Jay Leno and 120 other comics, chided BET for the lack of union wages paid to performers on Comic View, the somewhat raunchy, five-nights-a-week centerpiece of BET’s prime time schedule. "Unfortunately," the ad read, "the show’s success comes at the expense of its biggest asset - the comedians themselves."


Other critics say that BET emphasizes hip hop videos that celebrate greed and avarice and portray young black men as thugs and sexual conquerors. "And we’re tired of dusty old network sitcom reruns, such as Amen and of all of those infomercials."