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"There's no judging in the Dollhouse."
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October 26 2009

Cost of an ad on Dollhouse versus other Friday shows. For those interested in the business and numbers side of things.

Given this previous article, you can play with the numbers a bit and see the profit Fox makes per Dollhouse ep. Comes out to $1,803,840 in ad revenue per ep. The discussion is continued here

Wow Friday really is dirt cheap compared to the rest of the days of the working week.
That's odd. Around 2 million $ in ad revenue is about double of what TVBTN speculated back then.
Simon that's exactly what I was thinking. It seems like the night, if you were Fox, to make your competition say SyFy and not the other broadcast networks. Cause no one is really making a killing, but if you can show a commitment to genre TV and take money out of NBC-Universal's pocket, isn't that a win for Fox?

Granted they tried this last Spring, but with an expensive Warner Bros produced show. They key has to be Fox Television developing another genre show to pair with Dollhouse, one they can produce for around a million an episode.
Some of 32 spots are network spots and probably generate no revenue.
For folks like me that don't get the business and numbers side of things... is this good for Dollhouse? Bad??? Doesn't matter?
wiesengrund TVBTN used a conservative $50k figure in their data, and admitted as such. So the numbers for both Dollhouse and a House rerun would inflate, presumably.
maxsummers No one is breaking the bank on Friday, so what I conclude is that there is no secret weapon Fox could pull out to make a bunch more money that night. So Dollhouse isn't a suicide risk but it also doesn't look to have a long healthy life, if that makes any sense.
I'm pretty sure we know that Dollhouse season 2 episodes cost a lot less than that for Fox. So if that is the case, then Dollhouse - despite low ratings - makes a profit. Which can only be good, right?
What puzzles me is that Fox is getting more revenue for a spot during "'Til Death" than during Dollhouse, while ad rates are determined by the demo ratings, the one area where Dollhouse has consistently outperformed TD, IIRC.

rocknjosie, yes, that's what I meant (just wasn't able to articulate it well... :): They assumed $50k for a 1.5 rating, while Dollhouse seems to be getting that figure for the 0.9 average it has been pulling till now. It surprises because it shifts my perspective on the profit News Corp makes with Dollhouse. With the old figure, I saw the show making "some" profit for News Corp, basically pulling in it's budget via ads on FBC and delivering additional income (=profit) via DVDs/iTunes/etc for 20th. With this new figure it is already doubling it's investment via ads (so FBC itself is making quite a profit with it) and then adds the bonus of other stuff via 20th to the net total.

Long, boring story short: The show looks financially even more healthy to my lay eyes now than it did before with the old TVBTN estimates.

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2009-10-26 22:26 ]
So +1 to everything that wisengrund said, and I'd just add that with the American Idol beast coming in Spring, along with 24, displacing Lie to Me and Glee, both which pull in more than Bones right now, it'll be interesting how the back 9 orders are divided up.

Dollhouse doesn't look to be a candidate to escape from Friday Night Purgatory, but I see that as ideal option A, less-ideal option B being that Fox decides it's Friday night competition is Syfy, and that any dollar Dollhouse makes is a dollar NBC-Universal doesn't make.
Surely the real question is, can Fox make the same revenue from another cheaper show? Say, from a repeat of another show (Bones, House, etc.)? Or from a reality show? Because if they can, that's a lot of DVDs/iTunes/International rights to make back your money off over the course of a 13 episode season (the only other ways of making a profit from Dollhouse, right?)

The bottom line is always the bottom line.

Side Note: Why does Fox make almost double of Smallville despite almost identical numbers? My guess is the numbers we aren't seeing are earnings of the average Dollhouse viewer. They must be significantly higher than Smallville for that number to make any sense. Otherwise the person who sells ad revenue at Fox deserves a huge bonus, and the one at CW needs to find a new job.

[ edited by applie on 2009-10-26 22:37 ]
Side Note: Why does Fox make almost double of Smallville despite almost identical numbers? My guess is the numbers we aren't seeing are earnings of the average Dollhouse viewer. They must be significantly higher than Smallville for that number to make any sense. Otherwise the person who sells ad revenue at Fox deserves a huge bonus, and the one at CW needs to find a new job.


Yes, I guess it also depends on the micro-accounting of other demos and detailed specifics of the viewership. For instance, Dollhouse usually does quite well with the 18-34 demo (numbers that are not released that often), maybe the edge it has over other shows in that demo helps Fox charge slightly higher rates for the ads. And yup, I see high income being a decisive factor too.

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2009-10-26 22:43 ]
Dollhouse is pulling #1 in 18-34 males and 2 overall at mo. Not public. Is now.
Suddenly I wonder how much Apple's market share is going to grow in the next ten years, as that 18-34 market they target so much become decision makers. This of course has nothing to do with Dollhouse, aside from the frequent apple ads during it's broadcast. Just sometimes its interesting to me how much I've become a type.

Dear Apple, I will buy your computers forever if you keep Dollhouse on the air. kthnxbye!
In that case Gossi - I can see a way for the back nine to be commissioned. Never thought I see myself type that!
Wow, fascinating article and numbers. It's really interesting to see how the coveted 18-49 demo number is not the end all, be all number for these ad costs. For instance, Grey's Anatomy usually has similar 18-49 demo numbers to House but it earns 240K/ad to House's 183K/ad.

Surely the real question is, can Fox make the same revenue from another cheaper show? Say, from a repeat of another show (Bones, House, etc.)? Or from a reality show?


Looking at the ad costs for repeat episodes on Sat where the highest is 32K/ad, I would guess repeat episodes charge less per ad than a new Dollhouse episode even if the repeat ep is House or Bones and even if the repeat ep has better 18-49 demos. That's probably why Fox was willing to give Dollhouse a season two. With reality shows, they'd probably charge less per ad too, especially if they don't have as good 18-34 male demos as DH.
If the 18-34 male demo is that good, do we still have a shot at a back-nine / season 3? Or do we need to wait till December ratings to find out? (It would certainly be better if the writers found out sooner rather than later).
I am not getting this. If the rates on DH are low, and they are, that's the money which can be used to pay for the cost of producing the show. Less money means less resources, so why do people see these numbers as good things? I would assume that the rates correlate in some fashion to number of viewers; lower rates means fewer viewers. Given I do not know how much a single episode of DH costs, I can't know whether the money derived here is enough to make it successful. I know that Fox pays someone like Tim Roth around $235,000 per episode, so costs for Lie to Me would be much higher. I am guessing Eliza Dushku gets nowhere near that kind of money, though.
The links provided discuss the likely ranges of costs to produce an episode of Dollhouse.
Thanks. I honestly feel those numbers are off the mark and it costs more to produce than, say, one million dollars per episode. This is a cast heavy production; there are a lot of actors to get paid, in addition to creative people, gaffers, builders, etc. But interesting.
I think the one million is the cost to the network. FOX, the studio, is basically eating much of the cost of production this season so they can get the profits from the DVD release.

As to whether the good young male demos will get the show renewed - who knows, but it obviously wasn't enough to keep the show on air for sweeps.
Are these figures directly linked to the number of viewers? I thought the amount of $'s charged for ads in a certain timeslot on a network were at least partly based on the ratings for the network determined during the sweeps period, more-or-less independent of the current show airing?

If that is the case, Dollhouse is probably currently not pulling enough viewers to keep the current ad-rate, which apparently makes it profitable enough to keep on, which is why they pulled in something different to keep the rates high. If the sweeps don't influence the bottom line, I don't quite get why one would switch around shows in that particular period.

And then again: maybe I am just wrong, as I'm in no way an expert on any of this :).
Ads are sold with certain ratings expectations so when a show fails to do as well as expected the network ends up having to compensate the advertisers by showing free ads.

Sweeps are important for setting ad rates for the affiliates which is a seperate issue.
TVBTN has posted another article on this topic here.
GVH This is my non-insider, just learning the industry take on how it works.

So we had those upfronts a few months ago and we the viewers get to see upfronts through the eyes of critics who are invited there, whose main concern is what the lineups are going to be. So up 'til now I assumed that's all they were.

But the term upfront refers to the way you pay. These meetings happen so that advertisers can buy ad space "up front". Aha, clever. So those rates in the article are the upfront prices agreed to back in May. And so you're right, Dollhouse has to meet or exceed the ratings promised at the upfronts. We the people don't know what those ratings are.

So what I've learned is that low ratings don't cancel a show, lower ratings than before do. However, since these things are sold in packages, well, it's complicated.

There are various reasons why Fox would essentially subsidize a show which isn't a huge money maker in the traditional Nielsen = ad money sense, and looking at those reasons makes me panic less about the whole no November Dollhouse thing. If Fox rightly doesn't think that the households that receive Nielsen diaries are watching Dollhouse, they can just sort of skip over that and then sell advertisers later on the other numbers.

edit: Can I just say, wow I can't believe I've stretched this discussion over two websites?!?

[ edited by rocknjosie on 2009-10-27 02:12 ]
That was actually a very helpfull article from TVBTN, thanks for the linkage, Sunfire. (Also, I remain amused that they'd post an update just for us guys :))

So, if I understand things correctly, I misunderstood the whole sweeps things, which is for the affiliates' ad rates which is a separate issue, but also confuses me again. And although this confusion might be slightly off-topic, I'll pose the question nonetheless: Do some affiliates air different ads to the mother channel? And if not: why do the ratings of these slots in which they don't air advertisements even matter? Or does FOX leave 'gaps' in the commercial time used by them to be filled up with affiliates' commercials? (ETA that: reading the comments on the TVBTN article, this last seems to be the case. Heh.) And: why should FOX care? Or are affiliates not bound to one channel, meaning they would switch to, like, NBC, if FOX' overall ratings suck too much? The American television system confuses the hell out of me ;).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: so the price we're seeing linked here is the price determined at the upfronts which is tied in to some unknown predicted rating which Dollhouse probably hasn't met because it has slipped when compared to season one. Which we're guessing/assuming means that FOX now has to offer free commercials to their advertisers, which I'm guessing: not a good thing for Dollhouse and will probably make the revenue mentioned up-thread be an overestimation.

Although, the package-deal mentioned by rocknjosie is also confusing. Does this mean one doesn't buy the ads per show, but rather per-many-shows? Which could conceivably mean that if the estimations even out over the package, there might not have to be any (or less; or maybe even more?) extra advertisements handed out. Makes me wonder how they do the math for one single show outside of those packages to determine their commercial feasibility. Although I imagine they'd just scratch the influence of any package deal and just take what any single show is contributing, even if that doesn't translate 1-on-1 to the actual cashflow in the books.

(Some days whedonesque feels like a classroom. This is one of those days ;)).

[ edited by GVH on 2009-10-27 02:55 ]
Class is definitely in session, and I only hope people realize there is no professor in the room, and maybe not even a Grad Student Instructor.

That said, according to the LA Times, "So how does Ad Age determine the price of a commercial for a particular show? The publication's TV editor, Brian Steinberg, explained that major media buyers are surveyed about how they allocated their clients' commercial buys across a network's schedule, and from there a value for a particular spot can be determined."

So as I understand it, Fox says, "Coke, how's it going? If you give us a lot of money, we'll let you advertise on our network. This benefits you because of [numbers]." Then coke says, "alright, but if I'm gonna shell out that kind of dough, I wanna pick my spots." So those numbers are a representation of how much advertisers wanted of a day on a network at a time, number of ads during a program over total ads bought times money spent or something like that. So if company x wanted to only buy an ad on Dollhouse, that's the market value of a Dollhouse ad (and there are ads sold like that).

The package is what advertisers buy, but each show is still responsible for holding up its end of the deal. And since advertisers buy time slots not shows, Fox can put on there whatever it thinks it has to in order to meet expectations.
"Do some affiliates air different ads to the mother channel?"

An amount of spots are given over to the affiliates. This allows for local ads (car dealerships, movies opening in specific cities only, etc etc).
I was under the impression Supernanny was still whupping things like Dollhouse in the ratings, why is their rate so low? I mean even up against the Fox sitcoms it's against I can't really imagine that the income for the demographics of Til Death are going to to be that much higher than a show that does something like double the audience.

(For that matter, why exactly is it more expensive to advertise on Til Death when the ratings are more or less around each other and I assume there's not the same lucrative scientist/tech sector fanbase? Or is it that show does so much better outside the 18-49 numbers?)
Dana, Dollhouse is cheap to the network.
I was under the impression Supernanny was still whupping things like Dollhouse in the ratings, why is their rate so low? I mean even up against the Fox sitcoms it's against I can't really imagine that the income for the demographics of Til Death are going to to be that much higher than a show that does something like double the audience.


That's probably because - and we've heard it from Fox as one of the reasons for Dollhouse's renewal - advertisers like scripted programming more than reality. This preference is probably reflected in ad prices too.
Why do advertisers like scripted programming more than reality-TV ?
I would assume because of the demographics. Those who earn more may be more likely to watch scripted tv.
Exactly. 30 Rock isn't exactly a power house in ratings, either is The Office - but look at the ad rates. The spending power of those audiences makes those shows extremely profitable.
I would assume because of the demographics. Those who earn more may be more likely to watch scripted tv.


Well, that would be kinda circular. I think what Reilly meant by "Scripted shows command a CPM premium over unscripted" is that Dollhouse with a 1.0 C3 demo sells more expensive ad slots than Supernanny with a 1.0 C3 demo. I read that comment as a specific "all things being equal, scripted has an edge"-thingy.

The reason for that could be, dunno, maybe studies showing that retention is better for scripted shows because people really don't wanna miss the next act and therefore don't leave the room so much as with reality TV. That's me guessing totally in the dark.
The advertisers are interested in far more than simply the 18-49 demo - they want to see data on earnings. So shows that do well in high earning demos can get a premium which helps shows like The Office and 30 Rock. It's these further break downs in the viewer data, most of which are not publicly available, that makes scripted shows carry a premium over many reality shows.
Regarding differing advertising rates:

My guess is also that advertisers like one demographic watching a particular show: say 80% of audience for NFL is male 18-49, or 70% of Grey's/Housewives audience is female 18-49 (completely made-up figures BTW). These 'specific' audiences allow advertisers to better target their products at known demos. A 'scattered' demo may reach less of the intended demo in an overall lower-rated show than it might otherwise.
All guess-work, but from what everyone's saying, it still seems like Dollhouse's days on Fox are numbered. FX seems like the last best hope for the show. The likes of Damages, for example, is pulling in similar numbers, and surviving over there.

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