2010 Media Buying Trends: Dancing with the Stars (Part 1)

“Dancing with the Stars” Wins as Bipartisan Favorite of Political Advertisers

Bristol Palin didn’t quite win, but ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” clearly came out on top as the bipartisan 2010 favorite of both Democratic and Republican political media buyers during the fall campaign. Despite Sarah Palin’s presence in the studio audience, Democratic media buyers were slightly more likely than Republicans to pay the primetime prices demanded by local stations for the highly rated program.

A National Media analysis of data provided by CMAG, the political ad tracking firm, looked at 34,466 primetime political ads in major media markets with statewide Senate or gubernatorial campaigns and found 1,773 placements on ABC’s “Dancing” programs, including 1,150 spots on Monday’s competition program and 623 spots on Tuesday’s results show between September 20 and October 19, 2010.

The “Dancing” Monday night competition program’s 1,150 insertions beat out NBC’s “Dateline” at 1,042 spots and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” at 1,033. CBS rounded out the top five political media favorites with two crime dramas: “Mentalist” (925) and “NCIS: Los Angeles” (905). The data include placements by candidates, party committees, and independent groups.

“Dancing” Reaches both Republican and Democratic Voters

Regular “Dancing” viewers are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, according to our analysis of the most recent GfK MRI national survey of 26,342 adults. The program’s viewers are two-thirds female and are one of the older audiences in primetime – 69% are aged 45+ compared to 51% of all adults. Older adults are more likely to be voters, adding to the program’s popularity with political media buyers. According to MRI, 69% of “Dancing” viewers say they regularly vote, significantly higher than the 57% of all adults.

“Dancing with the Stars” is an exception to the primetime tastes of political media buyers who have a preference for crime dramas. A review of the twenty-five most purchased programs shows a heavy investment in crime and law-related dramas over other program genres – twelve of the political top twenty-five programs are crime dramas, including new fall premiere series such as “Hawaii Five-O,” “Detroit 1-8-7,” and “Law and Order: Los Angeles.” (The only other new series to break the top twenty-five is NBC’s widely promoted serial drama “Event” centered on a federal government cover-up .) While crime and law-related programs account for more than fifty percent of the political top twenty-five, the genre represents only about thirty percent of all primetime programs in the Big Four network lineup.

Political media buyers like to be in the news, so all three network news magazines (e.g. “60 Minutes”) make it into the top twenty-five, but situation comedies are notably absent with the exception of Fox hit “Glee.” In addition to “Dancing,” three other reality programs placed in the top twenty-five: “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Biggest Loser,” and “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

Top-rated CBS wins the political primetime sweepstakes with ten programs in the top twenty-five and a total of 7,240 spots. ABC takes second place with six programs and 4,710 spots, followed by NBC’s five programs with 4,254 spots and Fox’s four programs with 2,535 spots.

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