SBD/December 18, 2013/Media

ABC's Audience Skews Largely Female Due To Lack Of Sports Programming

ABC during the fall TV season has competed "with no help from the NFL and virtually no help from sports programming at all," causing every important primetime ratings measure to be qualified by "what amounts to a footnote: 'not counting sports,'" according to Bill Carter of the N.Y. TIMES. Going largely with a "sports-free diet," ABC is "building a lifeline to women." TV viewing is "widely dominated by women -- every broadcast network but Fox has a majority female audience, as do the vast majority of cable networks." However, the scale is "unusually tipped at ABC, where much of its sports programming has moved to ESPN." ABC last season "finished a clear first among women in the category it sells to advertisers, viewers from the ages of 18 to 49 -- and dead last in that category when men were counted." Sports, specifically the NFL, is the "most significant factor in the difference." ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee said, "More Americans in the 18-49 category are watching ABC than any other network if you take sports out." Meanwhile, Aegis Group Dir of Media Investment Andy Donchin said, "We’re not buying ABC in a vacuum. If you throw in their sister network ESPN, you can probably get a nice balance." Lee argued that the network "might even benefit from a definition as the network without big sports." He said, "To some degree, it frees us up. You could argue that we have used it to our advantage." But Carter notes "without a weekly male-centric sports franchise like NFL games, it is inevitably more of a challenge to promote new shows aimed at men." Lee did praise ESPN for "generously helping ABC to promote its new series and noted that ABC had no significant problem bringing viewers in to new shows" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/18).
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