What Defines a TV Hit (to the networks)
In a recent post on MediaPost’s TV Watch, entitled ‘Mad Men’ A Hit? Try Whopping TWO Million Viewers, author Wayne Friedman discusses the success of AMC’s Mad Men. The drama, based on a 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising agency and it’s creative director (who makes me jealous with his afternoon scotch and big budgets) just premiered it’s season two opener to an audience of 2 million. Friedman compares the show to The Sopranos’ 13 million viewers and The Closer’s 8 million. He doesn’t discuss the ridiculous viewership of reality shows such as American Idol or Big Three programs such as Desperate Housewives, whose ratings I’m sure, eclipse those of Mad Men. His article wonders just what constitutes a success. In his mind this is a huge success, if only by AMC’s standards. I completely agree. However, there is anothr angle to be taken:
The kinds of ratings such as those for Sopranos and Desperate Housewives are going to be increasingly hard to come by. ONLY 2 million may seem small compared to the Sopranos or reality programming like American Idol, but, regardless of what network they’re on, the days of national hits or shows with global appeal (such as I Love Lucy and ER) are rapidly coming to a close.
While the networks may blame the Internet for declining viewership, which certainly plays a part, they’ve also done it to themselves. There is just too much niche programming. And that’s a good thing. A program with a more niche appeal makes for a more loyal, if smaller, audience. If you’re smart enough to target your ads appropriately to that audience, you’ll get better conversion. The Sci Fi Channel is a great example. While viewing the season opener for their original series Eureka, I found 50-75% of the ads were sci-fi themed.