Researcher Sees Hits in NCIS: L.A., Leno

While the fall TV season is still a good two months down the road, a New York-based research company already has a bead on which new shows are likely to break out in 2009-10.
After subjecting the fall slate to a comprehensive review, NewMediaMetrics’ predictive analysis suggests that CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles should scare up big ratings Tuesday nights at 9 p.m., while NBC’s Jay Leno Show could prove to be a powerhouse at 10 p.m., particularly on Tuesday nights.
Also promising are: ABC’s Flash Forward, which leads off the network’s Thursday night lineup; NBC’s Monday 9 p.m. hospital drama, Trauma; Fox’ Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show (Sunday nights at 8:30 p.m.) and the CW’s Vampire Diaries, which will hold down the Thursday 8 p.m. time slot.
Other new series flagged by NewMediaMetrics are ABC’s The Forgotten, the Fox musical comedy Glee and the one-two punch of Cougar Town and Eastwick, which will cap ABC’s Wednesday night lineup beginning this fall.
Including the mid-season replacements V and Happy Town, ABC boasts nine of the top 20 new shows, per NMM’s analysis. This season marks the fifth in which the researcher has predicted the outcome of the fall schedule; last year, NMM’s picks resulted in an 86.4 percent accuracy rate.
NMM’s success rate has been steady since it first began calling the outcome of the fall broadcast season back in 2005. That year, the company correctly predicted that Fox’ Prison Break and CBS’ Criminal Minds would be break-out hits, while giving low marks to the largely forgotten NBC ensemble drama Inconceivable and Fox’ Head Cases, which was yanked after just two episodes.
Of the projected top 20 new shows, six are either spin-offs (NCIS: LA, The Cleveland Show) or revisitations of long-ago properties (V, Melrose Place, Eastwick). Meanwhile, Leno is the fall schedule’s “known unknown.” The host is a familiar property, having helmed The Tonight Show for 17 years, although the new format remains something of an enigma.
In addition to the Tuesday night Leno, NMM believes the variety show will get traction on Thursday nights as well. (Certainly, the Thursday shows will benefit from a wealth of high-profile film talent, as the studios will look to trot out their A-listers on the night before their films open.)

NMM co-founders Gary Reisman and Denise Larson noted that while no one has seen a final blueprint for the 10 p.m. Leno program, the elevated expectations are a function of viewers’ “emotional attachment” to the comedian. Per NMM’s findings, 17 percent of Leno’s core demo gave Jay a score of at least nine-out-of-10, based on their fondness for his past work. That attachment translates into a group of consumers who are much more likely to watch Leno than anything else in the time period.
The NMM team’s research model is derived from methods developed by Jonathan Bowlby, the British behavioralist who in the 1940s developed a methodological approach to quantifying the emotional bond between mothers and children. A cornerstone of sociology and developmental psychology, Bowlby’s attachment theory can also be used in marketing and media applications, as demonstrated by Reisman and Larson’s work.
Further atomization of viewer response data allows for greater insight into how a person’s favorite TV programs and networks may be predictive of his or her consumer preferences. For example, NMM believes that men between the ages of 35 and 49 who also enjoy kicking back with Grey Goose vodka are more likely to tune in to new series like V, The Vampire Diaries, Glee and Leno. And if NMM’s findings hold true, women 18-49 who shop at Old Navy will be tuning in for Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads (in development).
All told, NMM’s database tracks 220 brands, ranging from Absolut vodka to Xbox. Linkages between brand affinity can be drawn to the five broadcast nets and some 35 cable outlets, including: Discovery Channel, USA Network, History, MTV, HGTV, TNT, ESPN and FX.
While NMM’s 86 percent success rate is impressive, the Bowlby method is obviously not infallible. For example, the new Mark Burnett unscripted series, Wedding Day, was expected to be the ninth most-watched new program on cable this year, based on NMM’s projected emotional response readings. In fact, the show stands as TNT’s lone dud of the summer, as the June 16 premiere drew a mere 853,000 total viewers. That said, NMM did predict big things for USA’s Royal Pains, as well as TNT’s Hawthorne and Dark Blue, all of which have been ratings dynamite.
Reisman said the NMM approach to connecting consumer brands and TV properties is deigned to give marketers a greater sense of where they should allocate their advertising dollars. “What we’re doing is prioritizing shows and networks, based on where the people who are actually going to purchase your product are spending their media time,” Reisman said. “Simply pushing out that shotgun approach no longer makes any sense.”
Or, as Larson notes, “advertisers need to recognize that consumers actually pull their favorite brands and media to them…Ultimately, when they talk about efficiencies they’re talking about price rather than the intrinsic value of the media and the consumer base. They miss out on the emotional connection, which means they’re overlooking the bonds that link the consumer and their media of choice.”