So, America's Going Steady With 'Survivor'

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, September 19, 2008

Of all the series returning to the broadcast networks' prime-time lineups in the fall, CBS's "Survivor" has the most emotionally attached 18-to-49-year-old viewers. This according to a new study from a leading market research company that goes by the ridiculously long name: Marketing Evaluations Inc., the Q Scores Co.

Following "Survivor" in ability to emotionally attach 18-to-49-year-olds are NBC's "Heroes" and Fox's "House," according to the study, which looked only at shows returning in the fall -- sorry, all you "Lost"-heads and "24"-aholics. The study also looked only at 18-49ers, because that's whom advertisers care about.

Briefly, MEITQSC is the company that puts out the well-known "Q" scores that tell you, for example, whether Tom Cruise is better recognized than, say, Oprah Winfrey.

In this study, the company looks at what it calls the Emotional Attachment Index, which indicates the commitment 18-49ers have to continue watching a show in the future. The higher the index -- 100 is "average," whatever that means -- the stronger the emotional attachment the viewer has going into the new TV season. "Survivor" has an Emotional Attachment Index of 177. This means the 18-to-49-year-olds watching the show were practically having sex with it. ("Survivor" actually made the Top 20 list in two places: Last season's "Survivor: Micronesia" is No. 1, while "Survivor: China" ranks fifth, American viewers apparently being more emotionally attached to a mess of islands than to an emerging world power.) But in this new study, the company also threw in what it calls the Impact Q, or "IQ" -- get it? That's based on likability, and it indicates the program's capacity to satisfy 18-49ers during the season. The higher the index, the stronger the satisfaction level. Henry Schafer, executive vice president of MEITQSC, says the difference between IQ and the Emotional Attachment Index is like "going from liking to loving."

Did you know that 18-49ers who watch CBS's "Criminal Minds" are more attached emotionally to that show than 18-49ers watching any show on CW? And 18-49ers watching CBS's "Ghost Whisperer" cling to that show more than the 18-49ers watching NBC's "30 Rock"? Of course you didn't!

Actually, comedies don't do well in the emotional attachment arena; NBC's "The Office" is the only comedy that seems to attract the emotionally attachable. Since we have by now begun to suspect that this study is really a reflection of what kind of viewers are attracted to certain genres of TV shows -- well-rounded viewers who are emotionally committed to things like their boyfriends, their dogs, etc., as opposed to those unnaturally attached to their TV shows -- we think this does not speak well of "The Office" fans. We're also beginning to suspect the fact that "30 Rock" and even the country's most watched sitcom, "Two and a Half Men," were nowhere to be found on this list speaks highly of the viewers of both shows. "Two and a Half Men" only ranked in the 40s out of 75 shows evaluated for this scary, scary study, which just goes to show you what a sane, well-rounded bunch we "Two and a Half Men" viewers are, even though it does star Charlie Sheen.

Not coincidentally, many series on the Emotionally Attached Top 20 are grisly procedural crime dramas and sci-fi shows: "Heroes," "CSI," "Criminal Minds," "Ghost Whisperer," "Without a Trace," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," blah, blah, blah. We think there's something vaguely Stockholm syndromey going on here. We're getting more and more creeped out the deeper we probe this study.

For instance, the only CW show to make the 18-49 Emotional Attachment Top 20? Not "Gossip Girl." Not "Top Model." Not even "Smallville," though those three series are, according to CW itself, the hit series of the millennium, century and decade, respectively.

The CW series with the most emotionally clinging 18-to-49-year-olds is . . . "Supernatural," the show that incinerated Mom in the very first episode, remember? Though it was hardly a barnburner in the ratings last season, it has the eighth highest ranking of any returning series on any broadcast network on the Emotionally-Sucking-In-Advertiser-Coveted-Viewers-O-Meter.

This, according to MEITQSC, just goes to show you that "Supernatural" is a "cost-effective advertising environment." We think it shows something far more insidious.

"What these scores are tapping into is not so much the number of viewers that are tuning in, which is what Nielsen is reporting. It's the commitment and loyalty that the viewers have to the show -- an emotional connection, not only in terms of future viewing . . . but strength of the emotional commitment of the core audience of the show," Schafer explained to The TV Column while we fought the urge to scream and run.

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