The Impact of the Distance & Construction in Program Promotion

James R. Walker, Ph.D.

St. Xavier University

Chicago, IL


Prior research has shown relationships between several structural components of network promotional announcements and their effectiveness as measured by changes in ratings. Such promo characteristics as position, location, frequency and clutter have been shown to have significant impacts on program ratings. The genre of the program and the demographics of the target audience also contribute to promos’ impact on ratings. Questions remain about the impact of the time that elapses between the airing of a promo and the airing of the promoted program (called distance in prior research). It seems logical that the greater the time, the less the impact on the promoted program’s ratings, but there is value in attracting audience attention far in advance of a program’s airing. Previous research suggested that this may vary by genre. Moreover, no guidelines for ideal promotional distances by genre have been articulated.

Other questions concern the way promos are assembled (called construction in prior research) because the method varies from network to network. Previous analyses showed that, while ABC and CBS divided their prime-time promos about 50/50 between spots for single shows and multiples promoting several shows, NBC used far more multiples, and Fox used nearly all singles. In some prior research, single spots have been valued over multiples, and Fox used nearly all singles. In some prior research, single spots have been valued over multiples of any kind, but promos that package hit series with weaker shows, for example, might have greater impact on the ratings of the weaker show than single spots for that weaker show. Aggregated findings in previous studies did not usually distinguish between impacts of such variables on weaker and stronger shows.

This proposed study will examine the impact of distance and construction in promos on ratings, in combination with such characteristics as the length of the promo, the carriage and the genre of the promoted program, and the demographic targets of the promo and program. The study will use samples of both Big Four network primetime and weekend NFL sports programming to determine the maximally effective amounts of elapsed time and structural make-up for promoting programs of different genres or that are targeted to specific demographic groups. The goals are to test and articulate guidelines for promotional effectiveness as measured by impact on prime-time ratings.


10.06.03 tt@udk-berlin.de