TV Buzz is Building This Fall: Old Favorites & Newcomers Both Drive TV Talk This Season - Ed Keller - MediaBizBloggers

By Word-of-Mouth Matters Archives
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A difficult economy is proving to be a benefit to TV – at least when it comes to word of mouth. TV show talk levels are up six percent from this time last year, according to my firm's word of mouth tracking research. With the fall TV season now hitting its mid-year stride, we see interesting and important dynamics taking place this year that ratings alone do not unveil.

Some of the brightest of this season's shining stars when it comes to TV-related word of mouth are new shows Glee and Vampire Diaries. While neither is yet in the top 20 when it comes to their Nielsen ratings, they both do quite well when it comes to word of mouth –a likely precursor to future ratings growth. Fox's Glee has already broken into the word of mouth Top 10 for Fall '09, ranking at #7 in terms of WOM. The CW, which bills itself as providing "TV to Talk About," is living up to its motto this year with Vampire Diaries, which falls just outside of the Top 10 (#12).

Major buzz isn't limited to new shows, though. CBS has experienced some of the biggest gains thus far this season, with veteran shows NCIS and Survivor experiencing 142% and 52% gains in WOM activity, respectively, fueling big jumps for both shows: NCIS is up from #8 this time last year to #3 now, andSurvivor broke back into the Top 10.

Not all of this movement is positive, however, with some of the most talked about shows last year dropping in rank – some out of the Top 10 altogether. Heroes showed a significant drop – from the number 3 spot to #10 – a result of WOM activity decreasing by 51%. Even still, at #10 its word of mouth performance is better than its rating performance, as the show is not in the top 20 among Primetime series. Desperate Housewives and Fringe both fell off the Top 10 list, due to drops in WOM activity of 47% and 41%, respectively. Law & Order also dropped off the list, with a smaller WOM activity decrease of 27%.

Top 10 Programs in Terms of WOM : Fall ’09 vs. Fall ‘08
Fall 2008Fall 2009
4.Dancing with the Stars4.Dancing with the Stars
5.Family Guy5.Family Guy
6.Law & Order6.Grey’s Anatomy
7.Grey’s Anatomy7.Glee
9.Fringe9.The Office
10.Desperate Housewives10.Heroes
Source: Keller Fay Group’s TalkTrack®

Comparing the Top 10 lists by gender also yields some intriguing results for this season. While the rank order differs, it's notable that seven of the 10 most talked about shows are common across genders. Unique to the men's top 10 are Family Guy (#2), The Office (#5), and Heroes (#9), while Law & Order (#8), Vampire Diaries (#9), and Supernatural (#10) are unique to the women's top 10.

Top 10 Programs in Terms of WOM : Fall ’09 (By Gender)
2.Family Guy2.NCIS
4.NCIS4.Dancing with the Stars
5.The Office5.Grey’s Anatomy
6.Dancing with the Stars6.Survivor
8.Survivor8.Law & Order
9.Heroes9.Vampire Diaries
10.Grey’s Anatomy10.Supernatural
Source: Keller Fay Group’s TalkTrack®

When it comes to word of mouth among teens, ages 13 to 17, six of the top 10 shows are the same as the total public's top 10. The four that are unique: Gossip Girl (#4), Vampire Diaries (#5), Sponge Bob Square Pants (#8), and SouthPark (#9).

Top 10 Programs In Terms of WOM: Fall ‘09 (Ages 13-17)
1.Family Guy
4.Gossip Girl
5.Vampire Diaries
7.The Office
8.Sponge Bob Square Pants
9.South Park
Source: Keller Fay Group’s TalkTrack®

If TV buzz has risen this fall, who's driving the rise? There are interesting changes between this time last year and now. In particular, the rise in unemployment – from approximately 7% in November 2008 to 10% in November 2009, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures – seems to be driving more talk about TV shows.

In the fall of 2008, unemployed people accounted for 14.6% of all people talking about TV shows. That number has now jumped to 20.4% for that same time period this year – a 39% increase.

While more unemployed people are talking about TV, that shift has only nominally translated in terms of where TV-related conversations are taking place. Workplace TV conversations have declined, but not in a statistically significant way. Rather, more conversations are taking place while people are in transit – up 62% from this time last year. In all other categories, the numbers have remained relatively stable.

So what do we learn from all of this? It's clear that TV is still capturing a large share of the national conversation, even if the people having those conversations have changed. It seems that in these trying economic times, people want more than ever to be entertained – and they want to talk about it.

Ed Keller, CEO of the Keller Fay Group, has been called "one of the most recognized names in word of mouth." The publication of Keller's book,The Influentials, has been called the "seminal moment in the development of word of mouth." Ed can be contacted at

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