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Better Response Rates Coincide With Better Summer Programming

18 Jun, 2009 By: Eddie Wilders Response This Week

On May 31, 2000, CBS premiered a new challenge-reality show from producer Mark Burnett called “Survivor: Borneo.” Television was never the same again. This show not only changed the way television networks viewed reality shows, but it also proved that the summer months can hold viewers’ attention with original programming. Once thought of as a platform for repeats and burn-through episodes, the summer has turned into a forum for networks to showcase their newest and (hopefully) brightest programming, with slew of top-notch actors and actresses.

What does this mean to the world of direct response? Well, with cable networks, such as USA and TNT, forever increasing the amount of first runs from June through August, the months have provided advertisers of the $14.99 products of the world with the opportunity to increase revenue during a time where they never thought they could.

In 2009, a total of 43 series premieres will hit the airwaves between May sweeps and the beginning of the fall season. The majority of these programs will be airing on basic cable, ranging from “Kendra” on E!, to “Models of the Runway” on Lifetime. While the number of new series has increased year over year, a growing number of returning shows remain on a summer schedule, including USA’s “In Plain Sight” and “Burn Notice,” as well as critically acclaimed programs such as AMC’s “Mad Men” and Lifetime fan-favorite “Army Wives.”

The viewership numbers show that networks like E!, USA and A&E have not only been successful in building their audiences through the summer months with original programming, but also maintaining those audiences. Since 2005, E! has shown 13 percent growth, while A&E has enjoyed a 12-percent spike in third quarter. USA’s audience has increased by more than 16 percent in the past four years during the third quarter.

The growth isn’t just visible in a year-over-year comparison. In recent years, the third-quarter VH1 audience has grown 6 percent out of second quarter, while the E! audience has grown 2 percent, A&E 4 percent and TBS 1 percent. While these percentages do not appear to be significant, the new program offerings are among the highest rated programs the network has to showcase.

While the increased viewership is interesting to look at, it only proves to be beneficial if the advertisers also see an increase in their response. Well, if you are an advertiser, then you are in luck — response has increased 48 percent in the summer months since 2005.

The biggest increases can be seen in both June and July, where response has increased 157 percent and 50 percent, respectively, since 2005. And in 2008, summer response increased an incredible 57 percent from 2007. Response has been trending upward since 2005, justifying the significant increase.

If 2009 performs anywhere near the performance of 2008, both the networks and advertisers will be able to find comfort and relief during these dog days of summer that even an air conditioner does not provide.

Eddie Wilders is a media analyst at Lockard & Wechsler Direct in Irvington, N.Y. He can be reached at

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