Freshman Fall Forecast: Tracking New Shows with High (The Muppets) and Low (Truth Be Told) Awareness

Michael Schneider
KERMIT THE FROG, GONZO THE GREAT
ABC

ABC’s rivals must be green with envy.

More people are aware of The Muppets, which debuts September 22, than any other show premiering this fall. The Muppets also boasts the highest percentage of potential viewers who say they intend to watch a new show. That’s a good sign for Kermit and Miss Piggy as they return to primetime for the first time in nearly 20 years.

SUPERGIRL is CBS's new action-adventure drama based on the DC COMICS' character Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), Superman's (Kal-El) cousin who, after 12 years of keeping her powers a secret on Earth, decides to finally embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be. Photo: Darren Michaels/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

CBS

Supergirl

Research firm Ipsos MediaCT polled 2,342 people ages 13 to 64 during the first week of September to gauge how familiar they were with the new crop of programs. TV Insider obtained a copy of Ipsos' TV Dailies report, and no surprise, four of the most recognized titles are based on familiar franchises: The Muppets (63 percent of those polled had heard of it), CBS’s Supergirl (34 percent), Fox’s Minority Report (30 percent) and NBC’s Heroes Reborn (24 percent).

Polls like the one conducted by Ipsos can help network executives determine whether their marketing messages have resonated with potential viewers or whether they need to redirect their promotional dollars to help a show struggling to get noticed. “You only get one shot to make a first impression,” says one network executive. “You’re not getting a second chance anymore.”

With so many new series boasting built-in brand recognition, executives say it’s been tougher this fall to gauge true viewer awareness. “The built-in titles are inflating a lot of the awareness,” one exec confirms. “I don’t know if it’s sucking wind out of the other shows or creating more confusion.”

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Network honchos also take into account the fact that those polled may claim they’re aware of a familiar title even if they haven’t actually heard of the show. That’s why ABC, for example, is doing more in-depth research on Muppets awareness, asking viewers whether they’re thinking of the 1970s The Muppet Show, the Muppet movies or the new fall comedy.

High awareness for Fox’s Scream Queens (28 percent) is particularly impressive given that it isn’t based on a preexisting film, TV or literary property. (Though the title recalls that of the film Scream, recently adapted as an MTV drama.) The network began advertising Scream Queens with a teaser on February 13 and has maintained a steady stream of promotion in the months since.

“Fox spent an ungodly amount of money on Scream Queens,” says one rival. “That gave it a leg up.”

QUANTICO - A diverse group of recruits has arrived at the FBI Quantico Base for training. They are the best, the brightest and the most vetted, so it seems impossible that one of them is suspected of masterminding the biggest attack on New York City since 9/11. (ABC/Guy D'Alema) BRIAN J. SMITH, JOHANNA BRADDY, YASMINE AL MASSRI, PRIYANKA CHOPRA

Quantico

Other shows logging 20 percent or higher awareness include NBC’s Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (25 percent), ABC’s Quantico (22 percent), CBS’s Limitless (23 percent), Fox’s Rosewood (21 percent), CBS’s Code Black (22 percent) and Fox’s Grandfathered (20 percent). Ipsos also tracks awareness among adults 18-49 (still the networks' target demographic), but the percentages are mostly similar.

The shows that people aren’t talking about: NBC’s Truth Be Told, which suffers from the lowest awareness (clocking in at just 6 percent), ABC’s Wicked City (8 percent), NBC’s The Player (12 percent), CBS’s Life in Pieces (12 percent), CBS’s Angel From Hell (15 percent), The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (15 percent) and ABC’s Dr. Ken (16 percent). Many of those don’t premiere until October and haven’t been promoted heavily, so there’s still time for awareness to grow. “We believe in a ‘short runway’ approach,” one network exec says. “You don’t really build awareness until three weeks before launch.”

Just as important to the marketing teams are the intent-to-view stats among viewers who are familiar with a show. After all, awareness doesn’t matter so much if the people who have heard of your program don’t plan to watch. The goal: to have high percentages in both categories.

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Fox

The Grinder

New series with high intent-to-view numbers include The Muppets (18 percent), Supergirl (14 percent), Heroes Reborn (11 percent), Code Black (9 percent) and Scream Queens (9 percent). Shows with low intent-to-view scores are Truth Be Told (2 percent), Wicked City (2 percent), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (4 percent), Life in Pieces (4 percent), The Player (5 percent) and Fox’s The Grinder (5 percent).

Of course, measuring awareness and intent to view is not an exact science, particularly with so much programming to choose from. “I swear by the tracking when it’s good,” jokes one marketing chief, “and discount it when it’s not.” Complicating matters is the fact that networks are simultaneously promoting second-year shows that may need a lift.

And after a long summer, viewers are only just starting to think about the new season. Awareness levels are expected to change now that NFL football is back, providing networks a larger audience to promote new wares. “That’s the true kickoff to the TV season,” one exec says. “Viewers are reminded they watch TV.”

Last year, shows with both high awareness and high intent-to-view included Gotham, NCIS: New Orleans, How to Get Away with Murder, The Flash and Constantine. (Of those shows, only Constantine failed to return.) On the flip side, shows with low awareness and low intent to view included the long-gone Bad Judge, Red Band Society, The McCarthys, Marry Me, A to Z, Gracepoint, Manhattan Love Story and Mulaney. Two returnees also made that list: Madam Secretary and Jane the Virgin. It's not an exact science, but it's a start.