OTT distribution, licensing deals behind TV ratings' 'new math'

Broadcast TV networks not named ABC suffered a bit of a ratings hit as the NBA Finals swung into gear, with Game 1 stealing views away from NBC and CBS. But a poor broadcast showing may no longer be the kiss of death for struggling new series.

A report on Nielsen Fast National data noted the ratings win for the NBA Finals. "With ABC drawing such big numbers, a lot of the air was taken out of the Thursday room, with NBC's 'Aquarius' plummeting in Week 2," HitFlix's Daniel Fienberg wrote, noting also that Hannibal's third season had a weak launch on Thursday night as well.

But the publication also noted something interesting about the ratings deflation. "NBC's interest in live ratings may be limited since the series is available to stream in its entirety," Fienberg added.

The publication's TV critic, Alan Sepinwall, noted on Twitter that not only is Aquarius available to stream, but Hannibal is internationally financed, helping secure the series against outright cancellation. The enhanced distribution and financing options for both suggest that ratings alone no longer determine the survival of a new series.

"TV's new math is harder to calculate with weird arrangements like these," tweeted Sepinwall.

Twitter post

(Source: Twitter)

Just a few months ago, many content creators, in and outside of Hollywood, were openly recommending that new series creators try their luck first with OTT providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or even smaller venues like Vimeo and Vessel. Some supporters (and critics) of new series like ABC's Fresh Off The Boat wondered why creators would trust new, sometimes risky shows to ratings-reliant broadcast networks when OTT options are available to them.

But with increasing competition for eyeballs from SVOD providers--Hulu, for example, is grabbing exclusivity deals everywhere it can--and an ongoing shift of advertising dollars to OTT, traditional broadcasters are looking at all the facets of promotion and distribution of their content.

Meanwhile, the deeper measurement data available from online viewing has ratings firms like Nielsen updating the metrics they collect, giving broadcasters the opportunity to get a broader view of what audiences are watching across their screens. CBS, for example, has signed with the company to get ratings for its new over-the-top All Access service and CBSN.

For more:
- see this HitFlix story

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