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Are Kids Following Little Bo-Peep's Sheep?

Are Kids Following Little Bo-Peep's Sheep? is a sidebar discussing the continuing erosion of audience numbers that will, in time, lead to a lag in advertising dollars...

"Advertisers rarely lag too far behind current market conditions." - "The Cost of Eyeballs," Animation World Magazine,September, 1997.

Right before AWM went to press, Electronic Media (a trade weekly) asked "Where have all the kids gone?" in an article about Saturday morning audience dilution headlined, "A Monstrous Battle Over Kids." Readers who have been with us over the last year know that we've been treated to Buzz Potamkin's coverage of the fragmentation phenomena since the start of last season, so this audience dilution comes as no surprise. In his article, "In the Belly of the Beast: The Advertising to Kids Conference"in this issue, Potamkin notes the 90% decline in K2-11 ratings for the top Saturday morning shows over the last two decades (through last season), and the latest numbers from the first four weeks of the new season only underscore the continuation of this decline, as the table below shows.

Fall 1998 Fall 1997






Nickelodeon 4.3 20 5.2 23

Fox Kids 3.2 15 3.8 16

ABC 3.0 14 3.3 15

The WB 1.8 8 2.2 9

Cartoon 1.4 6 1.1 4






Of the five top networks (Nickelodeon, Fox Kids, ABC, The WB, and Cartoon Network), four show declines of 9%, 16%, 17% and 18%, while one shows an increase of 27%, with the total (and average) rating for all five declining over 12%. (Note: a minor portion of this fall was caused by a drop in K2-11 PUT level for one Saturday - Starr Report Saturday - but it rose back to either even or nearly so for the following three weeks.)

Electronic Media did not report on advertiser and/or ad agency response, and our short lead time did not give us the time to follow-up. We will as the season unfolds. However, Electronic Media did give us a preview in the same issue: the Big four network Prime Time 18-34 year old demo has also declined (surprisingly, by the same 12%) in the new season, and this excerpt from that coverage both echoes our premonition from last year and seems sure to presage what will follow in kids.

"In a year-to-year comparison ... of the new season, [the networks] are down 12 percent in the coveted demographic.... 'As the ratings continue to erode and prices remain high, an advertiser has to begin to worry that it's costing him more than it's worth to reach his target audience,' said [a] well-known media research consultant who asked to remain anonymous." - Electronic Media, 10/19/98