Which came first … the Daypart or the Programme?

My rare sorties into the realm of watching TV Soapies have lead me to conclude that nothing really happens and that you need only watch one episode a week to keep up to date with events. Until recently, there has been no scientific way to test this hypothesis because in any reputable scientific experiment, we always need a control group to verify the outcome of the findings.

In media, of course, we don’t often have the control group safety net and the fuzzy logic of “walks like a duck, quacks like a duck” tends to be the preferred route to decision making ( To a large degree, that’s why I entitled my book Media Planning – Art or Science?). However, a recent broadcasting error by the SABC has provided an ideal control group opportunity to test my theory that nobody needs to watch every episode of a Soapie.

On Tuesday 1st May SABC re-broadcast the Bold & Beautiful episode from the preceding night (Monday 30th April) and on Wednesday 2nd May re-broadcast the “repeat” episode of Bold & Beautiful from the preceding morning (Tuesday 1st May).  The “incorrect broadcasts” are indicated in the chart below in yellow.

Now, given this set of circumstances, you would imagine that even regular viewers of Bold & Beautiful, who have come to accept an alarming degree of repetition, would realize that something has gone horribly wrong and quite simply switch channels. After all, if watching the same episode of a programme offered the prospect of a different outcome, then every Manchester United supporter in the world would be replaying the last 5 minutes of the Manchester City v QPR game for the rest of all time.

Analysis of this event, against three target markets, reveals that re-broadcasting exactly the same programme episode has no significant outcome in terms of TVRS across a 4 programme period. The data below is from Telmar but analysis of the Arianna data confirms the same pattern.


Now, there are two possible circumstances that produce this outcome ….

Option A] Exactly the same people who watched the Monday primetime episode watched exactly the same episode on Tuesday. And exactly the same people who watched the Tuesday morning repeat watched the same repeat on Wednesday..

Option B] A totally different set of new viewers, blissfully unaware of the programming error, happily watched Tuesday night or Wednesday morning’s rebroadcast.

This provides us with an ideal control group scenario to pose some interesting questions about the value of “available audience” versus the “cherry picking” school of TV buying. In short, we can answer the oldest TV buying conundrum of all … “which comes first, the daypart or the programme”?

Using the “Women universe filter”, let’s create a hypothetical schedule with x1 spot in each primetime broadcast … the correct broadcast (call it Event 1) and the incorrect broadcast (Event 2). Will the second TVC flighting create more Reach% or will it build Frequency? If Option A prevails, then we would expect Reach% to remain the same as the programme TVR (8,9%) and deliver x2 OTS. If option B prevails, then Reach will double to 17,8% (8,9 + 8,9) and Frequency will remain at x1 OTS.

In practice the answer lies somewhere between these extreme outcomes, and our schedule delivers 14,9% reach @ 1,2 OTS. The same pattern is discernible for all target markets and both repeat broadcasts in this study. Weight of evidence strongly suggests then, that irrespective of target market, when it comes to Bold & Beautiful, it is the “available audience” that comes first, rather than “programme appointment” based viewing.


So what does this mean for TV buying? Conventional wisdom has tended to suggest that, because of viewer loyalty, Soapies are always a great place to build frequency. But overall duplication, across all target markets and broadcasts in this instance, is only 20%. That means only 1 in 5 viewers are common to both broadcasts. Of course than also means 4 out of 5 viewers to the Bold & Beautiful re-broadcasts were “available audience” viewers.

So, it seems you can use a Soapie not just for Frequency but also for building Reach%.

By the way, did you get the answer to the big question? 20% duplication! That’s 1 in 5. Only 1 in 5 viewers are common to both broadcasts and that, I argue, means my hypothesis is right. 4 out of 5 TV viewers only need to watch a Soapie once a week to understand what’s going on.

And for the 1 in 5 of you who are watching every day and, in this instance at least, seem quite happy to watch the same episode again and again … you really do need to get out more!