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Turner Broadcasting Case Study: Redefining Program Types and Audience Analytics

2 minute read | June 2012

Have you ever tried to categorize all the different types of unscripted TV? Investigative, reality, jobs/business, celebrity, competition, comedy… It’s a challenge and for Jon Marks, SVP Research at Turner Broadcasting, it was a quest. During a session at Nielsen’s Consumer 360, Marks, along with representatives from Nielsen discussed their collaboration.

Bringing unscripted content to networks is an opportunity that continues to show tremendous growth. But categorizing shows as diverse as American Idol and Hardcore Pawn had led to great imprecision in language. And submitting program line-up information to Nielsen by genre had become subjective. A dance competition could be categorized by one network as participation variety and by another, general variety.

Turner wanted to see if TV shows were growing or not, to learn what types of audiences they attracted, to track the trends, to identify programming opportunities, and to create strategies for planning efficiently.

What if you could create a Dewey Decimal System that was behaviorally-driven by groups of shows that share viewers? Why behaviorally-driven? Turner and Nielsen knew from experience that what people say they watch is often very different than what they actually watch. The collaboration between Turner and Nielsen was born.

Nielsen began with over 250 million data points and pursued a segmentation approach that was, as requested, behaviorally-driven. A typical segmentation study groups people by similar preferences but Turner’s goal was to group by similar viewing patterns. The team learned that with Big Data, it’s critical to have clear objectives and an analytic plan to address those objectives. The result, eighteen clusters with results broken into two categories: information oriented or entertainment oriented TV shows.

Results were eye-opening. Within the entertainment segmentation, style and tone were incredibly important factors in explaining the segmentation. Shows like Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn may both take place in a pawnshop but depending on the style and tone, can fall in different segments and attract very different viewers.

Turner segmented shows under its three brands truTV, TBS and TNT and their distinct brand promises with some informative business applications. This behaviorally-driven approach led to a business impact on both scheduling, such as scheduling favorable adjacencies, and on marketing and promotion, including consumer positioning and choosing promotional platforms.

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