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'Tis the Season: Why Fall TV is Big for Networks and Advertisers Alike

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Posted by Maura Fenske

Sep 18, 2018 3:00:00 PM

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old-tvThe words “coming this fall” have probably splashed across your television screen tens, hundreds, or even thousands of times. We are right in the middle of the most popular time of year for television, in which the major networks air new series, or new episodes of existing series. 

But have you ever stopped to think about why that is?

Why not summer, when “the livin’ is easy” and the kids aren’t in school or doing homework? Or why not winter, when so many of us are holed up in our homes, huddled under blankets in our living rooms for much of the season? Surprisingly, neither of these times of year brings in as many TV viewers as fall does every year. Some shows do have spring, summer, and winter premieres (after January 1 is referred to as television’s “second season”), but autumn is by far the most popular time of year to air new TV.

Here’s why: because Nielsen ratings, the system that tracks TV viewership, start afresh in September. And that's because TV networks followed the old radio model of airing daily shows from fall through the following spring, then going off air for the summer. These patterns have been followed for decades now, so why switch it up? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Since the fall season is the time for new TV content, that also means the season is filled with the fiercest competition for eyeballs. New shows and new episodes are in constant competition with each other across networks. If network executives are concerned about a new show’s performance, they might choose to air it in late August or early October in an attempt to combat that competitive nature.

So why is this important in advertising?

Here's why that's important: if viewership of television shows goes up in the fall, it stands to reason that the viewership of television ads goes up, too. But there’s more to the ad side of fall TV than meets the eye.

The tricky part for advertisers is to choose, months in advance of premieres, which shows they believe will be most successful. Their picks, in turn, become the shows during which they advertise most. Some shows that were predicted to be new favorites could turn out to be total busts, or a show that was not highly anticipated can fly completely under their radar and become an enormous hit. Advertising during fall TV can be a gamble, but it’s often worth the risk.

Here's the best part. As a business, if you have an ad agency that’s experienced in media buying, you don’t have to go about making your advertising decisions alone.

If you’d like to talk to our team more about our experience in buying media, let’s get in touch.

Happy fall premiere watching!

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