The Wall Street Journal ran the numbers this week on commercial retention, or the percent of commercials that viewers of certain shows actually watch, and while the numbers aren’t exactly surprising, the trend is not a good sign for the ability of good television dramas to continue earning revenue from commercials.
Here’s the ten shows with the least commercial retention (the percentage number reflects the percentage of commercials viewers actually watch):
Mad Men (AMC) - 27%
Justified (FX) - 30%
Halt And Catch Fire* (AMC) - 31%
Fargo (FX) - 33%
The Americans (FX) - 33%
Suits (USA) - 33%
The Walking Dead (AMC) - 34%
Vikings (History) - 35%
Warehouse 13 (Syfy) - 35%
Top Chef (Bravo) - 36%
(*Note that most people who fast forward through Halt and Catch Fire commercials also fast-forward through the show.)
I watch the first eight shows on this list, and the only time I ever see commercials are during football season (and even then, thanks to the Red Zone Channel, I only see commercials on Sunday and Monday night football). The irony, too, is that the viewers who watch these shows are the most coveted by advertisers (i.e., wealthier viewers who buy cars, rather than those who buy potato chips and soda).
On the other hand, check out the ten shows with the highest commercial retention. It’s a horror show of terrible television.
House Hunters International (HGTV) - 84%
Bam’s Bad Ass Game Show (TBS) - 84%
Caribbean Life (HGTV) - 84%
Love It Or List It (HGTV) - 83%
Gold Rush (Discovery) - 82%
Haunted Hathaways (Nickelodeon) - 81%
Island Hunters (HGTV) - 81%
Property Virgins (HGTV) - 80%
House Hunters Reno (HGTV) - 80%
Beachfront Bargain (HGTV) - 79%
Good God, man. And though these shows have higher rates of commercial retention, the ad rates are much less lower because these viewers clearly never get up off their ass to actually go out and buy things. They may or may not also be brain dead.
It’s the fun contradiction of commercially-supported television, and it probably also demonstrates why the future of good drama is probably on Netflix and HBO, which don’t rely on commercials.