Thursday, October 21, 2010

Should TV Network Executives Look For Jackasses?

by Wayne Friedman

For a long time the myth has been that Hollywood is pushed by one demographic. Actually, for most movies, that's not the case.

But then we have Paramount Pictures and MTV Films' "Jackass 3D." After weeks of middling theatrical openings, we get an eye-popping $50 million opening weekend. In mid-October, no less!

Who's responsible for this activity? Young men, of course -- that demographic that seemingly pushes summer action movies to amazingly high levels of ticket sales. The audience for "Jackass 3D" was 60% males, with 67% of patrons under age 25. If $50 million weekend estimate total stands up, the film would have the biggest October weekend ever for a theatrical movie -- including a record first-day tally of $28.1 million.

Spikes in TV young-male driven programming don't necessarily work the same way. Still, think about those high NFL ratings these days on TV -- especially NBC's "Sunday Night Football," for example. NBC says over the last month those game have yielded the best prime-time results for the league in some 14 years. Key customers here? Men, and especially young men 18-34. Male viewers can represent 60% to 70% of viewers of a particular game.

Theatrical movies -- because of their distribution patterns -- look for a seam, perhaps a lull, in big entertainment options. But summer is still a key time because box-office attendance is at its highest.

Surely, Paramount would say -- for the most part -- young men alone aren't going to give you big box-office numbers for most of its movies. They need consumers from other quadrants to make a successful film. But with almost 70% of one movie's big $50 million opening coming from one demographic group, it tells you how hungry these particular customers are.

There are niche TV networks targeting younger male viewers -- but never getting these type of audience composition numbers. The better performing young male networks -- MTV, MTV2, Spike, Comedy Central, FX, Fuse -- as well as the usual places, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports Channel, the NFL Network, and Versus -- might register anywhere from 200 to 300 men 18-34 viewers per 1,000 viewing TV homes.

"American Idol" and other big shows can get big gross numbers for any specific viewer group. But getting to strong percentages -- comp numbers for a particular group -- is another issue.

TV marketers sorely crave bigger hits for those hard-to-get young males viewers any time of year, not the least of which is because this demo attracts a different kind of advertiser -- mobile phone service companies, video game producers, and, yes, theatrical movies.

Any lessons for TV marketers? Maybe MTV wishes "Jackass" were still a TV series.

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