ESPN

Deciphering the TV ratings scoreboard

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Front Row asked ESPN’s Vice President of Media Intelligence, David Coletti, to help make sense of the multitude of numbers associated with TV viewership, and to dispel the resulting “hot takes” and noise about what they mean you may see from the media. . .because you aren’t seeing this side being reported.

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Sports fans love to taunt opposing fans by chanting “SCOOOOORE-BOOOOARD!” when the result is certain.

When it comes to TV ratings, often the results are less clear.

There are a dizzying array of statistics associated with TV audience measurement – impressions and ratings, reach and minutes — all segmented by any number of demographic groups.

The largest – P2+ (“People ages two and up”) and HH (“Households”) – are often cited as the last word in measuring success. While knowing the totality of a TV audience is very important, knowing who is watching can be just as important as how many are watching.

Sports wins the night among key advertiser demographics

In 2016, (which according to Nielsen’s calendar ended Dec. 25), sports “won the night” (i.e., a sports telecast had the most viewers among all programs in prime time) 125 times.

Of those sports wins, 40 were from either ESPN or ABC.

But ESPN performed even better among the demos that our advertisers care most about. In 2016, sports “won the night” 178 times among Adults 18-49 (62 by an ESPN network), and 216 times among Men 18-49 (80 by an ESPN network).

That is particularly true when it comes to advertising. TV commercials are rarely sold on those P2+ or HH demographics.

Some advertisers want to reach women age 25 to 54. Some want to reach teens. Others want to reach anyone age 55 and older.

ESPN’s advertisers frequently target their messaging to young, affluent adults and males. Given their habits and lifestyle – generally watching less television than other demographic groups – young males, in particular, are the hardest portion of the population to find on TV. ESPN’s content delivers them most efficiently, meaning advertisers aren’t paying for viewers that aren’t the focus of their campaign.

Sports programming is the best place to find those elusive young viewers and tap into their extensive buying power. ESPN’s content connects these consumers to advertisers offering everything from cars to mobile phones, beer to movies, insurance to financial services.

Given their habits and lifestyle – generally watching less television than other demographic groups – young males, in particular, are the hardest portion of the population to find on TV. ESPN’s content delivers them most efficiently, meaning advertisers aren’t paying for viewers that aren’t the focus of their campaign.
– ESPN VP, Media Intelligence, David Coletti

The newly redesigned (and renamed) ESPN Fan & Media Intelligence team diligently finds the most compelling stories within this blizzard of numbers for ad sales and communications to provide to advertisers and the media.

To wit, look at ESPN’s performance over the past year in those key demographics. Thanks to the allure of live, unscripted sports, for the third straight year ESPN was the highest-rated full-time cable network among Men and Adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

So despite the glut of numbers the takeaway is actually quite clear. Advertisers seeking to make a strong connection to an engaged, upscale and young audience know where to find them: ESPN.

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