Monday, September 26, 2016

GSN prime time

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner has posted a long disquisition on GSN's prime time ratings.

He uses Nielsen numbers provided by the tireless Son of the Bronx, Douglas Pucci, and slices and dices them 47 ways. I'll spare you all the gory numerical details - though as a retired actuary I love this number crunching - and cut to the chase (no reference to Mark Labbett, at least not yet). In GSN prime time Winsanity and Idiotest drop a big chunk of the lead-in audience provided by Steve Harvey's Family Feud.

This is hardly a secret. GSN relies enormously on Mr. Harvey for their prime time numbers. Nothing else the network has tried recently in the evening window has drawn a lot of viewers. Once upon a time (not long ago) GSN got very decent viewer totals for The Chase and Chain Reaction. In fact, none other than Mark Labbett has bragged that The Chase actually built on the viewer totals from its Family Feud lead-in.

But then along came demos. GSN execs have long since gotten tired of hearing that their network skews older than Methuselah in his declining years...or at least older than anything this side of the cable news networks. So they've been trying feverishly to lower GSN's median viewer age. Although The Chase and Chain Reaction piled up nice viewer numbers, they suffered the traditional old skew of traditional game shows.

So in came stuff like Idiotest and Hellevator, plus the reality shows GSN has dabbled in. These shows rarely (if ever) wow anybody with total viewer numbers, but they do skew younger.

After a while, though, lowering the median viewer age only does so much good. If your show gets seven viewers and four of them are twenty-somethings, your median viewer age will look pretty young. (This almost literally describes the ratings for Hellevator late in its first season.) You won't sell much advertising time, though. And as anybody can see from watching GSN, a lot of the advertisers are still aiming for older folks, anyway. So maybe the demo chase - again, no reference to Mark Labbett here - is a futile one for GSN. Why not get as many viewers as you can and worry about demos later?

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