The data behind the dazzle

Now that the upfronts pageantry has subsided, advertisers must clear the spectacle smoke and look at the data to decide which networks hold the most promise for their brands. The odds are against advertisers. Less than half of new shows return for a second season, but social data is a powerful tool for understanding the new television landscape. Using social data and the 4C MAP product, we break down the 2015 upfronts and identify the networks and shows generating the most interest, and present the brands best suited to advertise on the transformed networks.

A quick assessment of the past 2014-2015 season exposes ABC as the top performer. The network ambitiously premiered the most shows and achieved the highest success rate for them; eight of its twelve new series will stay on for next year.

NBC and Fox had a tougher year. Of NBC’s eight shows introduced, only The Mysteries of Laura has been renewed. Fox fared slightly better, but will only return a third of its new series, which puts the network below the average. 

Television upfronts are a chance for networks to shift their momentum with fresh shows to entice new audiences and advertisers. To reinvigorate their 2015-2016 season, NBC and Fox announced the most new shows. NBC is taking further measures by drastically shifting its type of programming. The network will dissolve its infamous comedy block to focus on dramas.

NBC’s new schedule is generating interest, but Twitter data reveals that Fox’s 2015-2016 season drew the most attention. Fox achieved a 196 PPM*, demonstrating that people participating in the upfronts conversation, were most likely to interact with Fox. NBC recorded the second highest PPM score of 136, CBS rounds out the top three achieving 87 PPM.

Fox’s star-studded Scream Queens, a show from the credentialed creators of Glee and American Horror Story, is creating the most buzz for the network. The attention on Fox was also boosted by American Idol’s announcement that this will be the reality show’s farewell tour. American Idol’s final season will undoubtedly draw a large audience as the country says goodbye to the reality competition that created more than a decade’s worth of pop stars. Also highly anticipated in Fox’s lineup is the second season of freshman standout, Empire.

New shows Supergirl and Heroes: Reborn for CBS and NBC attracted the most attention for their respective networks heading into the next season. Veteran programs generated the most chatter during ABC’s upfronts, which means people were more interested in the next season of favorite shows than the network’s new offerings. This may explain why the network received the lowest PPM score.

However, ABC’s new programming shouldn’t be ruled out. The Catch will be Shonda Rhimes’ fourth program on ABC and her track record is good. Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, two of Shonda’s successful creations, garnered the most interest for ABC during its upfronts.

It would be amiss not to mention Internet streamers Hulu and Netflix in the conversation about upfronts. While these networks play a role in producing original content, they also have an additional purpose for television viewers – that of a savior.

Upfronts can be tumultuous for TV fanatics who learn their favorite show is cancelled. When that happens, Twitter data reveals these viewers begin pleading to Netflix and Hulu to rescue their primetime favorites. One network’s trash is another network’s treasure. Hulu has already saved The Mindy Project, but our analysis has identified the population percentages that would like to see these unlucky shows find new homes on Hulu and Netflix.

Understanding the excitement around the refreshed networks is one piece of the advertising puzzle. The other part is to identify which placements will engage a brand’s consumers. 4C’s data science discovers the connections between brands, consumers, and media to identify the most impactful sponsorships. Using this technology, we’ve found the top five brands for each network.

Social media is ubiquitous and unstructured, which makes it a powerful tool for understanding culture. Through the right science, social data can sort out the spectacle and discover the most productive opportunities for brands.


*PPM is Penetration Per Thousand. It measures the strength of connection across two things and can be thought of as a concentration. The higher the number, the higher the concentration of people in a population who engage with a particular brand.