Apr 25, 2016

Turn: Washington's Spies

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Several years ago I read a book review on the American Revolution in which the reviewer (a native Virginian) expressed surprise to learn how much fighting actually took place around the New York City tri-state area. The reviewer was much more a Civil War history buff and had been raised on all the famous Civil War battles that took place in his home state (and throughout the South.)

Having grown up in Westchester County, about two dozen miles north by northeast of Manhattan, I can tell you that – not only was the New York Metropolitan area a scene of intense fighting (including the single, largest set-piece battle of the entire Revolution, “The Battle of Brooklyn”)… it was also the scene of some very nasty and vicious internecine warfare. Indeed, my home county of Westchester was called “The Neutral Ground” because it was an area of fiercely divided loyalties which pitted neighbor against neighbor – those who supported the Revolution; and those loyal to King George of Great Britain.

Spying, in other words, was the order of the day as General George Washington needed to keep tabs on British (and Hessian) troops stationed in (and around) New York City, as well as counter the activities of British spies who moved clandestinely amongst a local populace of unknown allegiance.

Thus the overall theme for AMC’s period-piece drama, “Turn: Washington’s Spies” -- a (highly) fictionalized drama of the real-life “Culper Ring” that was created by George Washington and organized under Major Benjamin Talmadge (played in the series by American stage and TV actor, Seth Numrich.) The story revolves around Long Island farmer, Abraham Woodhull (played ironically by an English actor, Jamie Bell), who reluctantly becomes involved in espionage, which is helped along by the fact that his life-long love, Anna Strong (played by Heather Lind) has thrown her lot in with Washington’s spies.

At first glance, it would appear that “Turn’s” audience has turned in the wrong direction as it enters its third season (April 25th premiere date.) In Season Two (2015), average U.S. Live household ratings and shares were down significantly from Season One (2014) -- but the double-digit audience erosion comes with at least two major qualifications. For one thing, the show’s premiere season aired on Sunday night at 9:00pm, which is a much higher HUT evening (i.e., percentage of Homes Using Television) than “Turn’s” Season Two time slot of Monday evening at 10:00pm. Based on our analysis of Rentrak data, there’s a 22% fall-off in HUT, which had a significant (negative) impact on ratings.

The second qualification is that “Turn’s” rating erosion is for Live-viewing only. But when we look at viewing across a spectrum of DVR playback scenarios, an entirely different ratings pattern emerges. In the graph below, notice how the ratings in Season Two “catch up” to Season One as the DVR playback time horizon expands. By Live-Plus 7 Days, the ratings for Season Two are actually higher than Season One:

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Upscale Homes

Audiences to “Turn” are generally upscale with the highest household ratings accruing to homes with an annual income ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 (123 Index.) And (not surprisingly) higher income levels are associated with higher levels of educational attainment. The highest household ratings accrue to homes where at least one person who has graduated college (109 Index) or attended graduate school (121 Index):

 

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Local Cable Advertising Demand

Over the first two seasons, “Turn” has attracted over 100 local cable advertisers who have ordered nearly 600 units across thirty-three Viamedia markets (nearly one-half Viamedia’s national footprint.) That comes to an average of five commercial units per advertiser. (Source: B.I.G.SM   database -- Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

 

And in terms of product categories, Automotive captures the lion’s share at 40%. Of some note are the levels we are seeing for the Furniture & Floor Covering and Lawn & Garden Categories, which together comprise nearly one-fourth of all local cable investments. That’s 4-times the level we normally see for these two categories, which comprise less than 6% of total Viamedia advertising:

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No Man’s Land

The directors and writers of “Turn” have captured the zeitgeist of our nation’s Revolution in their main character – the reluctant Long Island farmer (and spy) Benjamin Woodhull. The popular modern-day view of our nation’s fight for independence doesn’t always square with what actually happened when war finally broke out in the American Colonies. Roughly one-third of the population remained loyal to King George, while another third rolled the dice and threw their lot in with a total break from the mother country. The remaining third occupied a very uncomfortable and ambivalent position between the two sides, not knowing exactly what to do and only praying for an end to the chaos and bloodshed that had descended upon our land. That is the “No Man’s” land occupied by Benjamin Woodhull until he is “turned” and begins to fight for Independence in a very unconventional way.

Topics: Cable TV Series, A&E

Jonathan Sims

Written by Jonathan Sims

A media & marketing research executive in the forefront of cutting edge ROI measurement and multi-platform engagement. Before joining Viamedia as Vice President, Research, Sims held the position of V.P., Product Management at TRA, Inc. Prior to TRA, Inc., Sims was the Head of Corporate Research at Comcast Spotlight. Originally from New Rochelle, New York, Sims resides in the nearby town of Rye Brook where he and his wife raised their daughter. In his spare time, Sims enjoys reading history, rooting for the New York Giants and rollerblading, especially when the weather is warm and the roads are smooth.

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