Nov 15, 2016

The TV Turkey Trot

thanksgiving tv marathons

Thanksgiving Day Cable Marathon

In what has become an annual holiday tradition, the cable industry will be serving up a stack of marathon programming events on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24th. And side-by-side with all that great home cookin’ will be round-the-clock dishes of ad-supported cable that focuses on specific programs.

Airing consecutive episodes from the same program over several consecutive hours has led to what we call today, “binge viewing” – a term we normally associate with several over-the-top digital channels such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon. But long before the Internet became a standard household utility, the cable industry was running marathon programming blocks, starting in the early 1990s with TBS’ “Seven Days of 007”. That quickly morphed into “15 Days of 007” and soon thereafter cable networks began experimenting with their own marathon programming events.

And on no day of the year has the marathon programming tactic become more pronounced than Thanksgiving -- a time when family and friends take time out from their busy schedules to gather round hearth & home, and I guess the television set as well. Below is a sampling of nearly two dozen Thanksgiving Day cable programs that were served up last year in extra-large slices. Collectively, they averaged 14 episodes per title and ran for a length of almost 10 consecutive hours! The genres run the gamut of cable favorites from Documentary, to Reality, Animated, Sitcoms and, of course, Cooking:




Local Cable Advertising

We isolated the day of Thanksgiving, 2015 (November 26th) and found 14 of the above networks (representing 15 different programs) that exhibited local cable advertising activity during a marathon telecast. In total, 130 clients ordered over 1,000 30-second spots across 47 Viamedia markets (60+% of Viamedia’s nationwide footprint.) That comes to an average of over 8 spots per advertiser.
Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (“Who Ordered It?” data module). Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In terms of local cable advertising categories, Automotive takes the lion’s share at over 50%, which is 15 to 20 percentage point higher than what we normally see company-wide for this category. But it would be overstating the case to say cable Marathon programming alone is the reason for such a high level of Automotive activity. We looked back over the past three Thanksgiving Days (2013 – 2015) and found a very consistent share for Automotive (~43%) company-wide. So, in other words, Automotive advertisers (i.e., manufacturers, regional and local dealerships) have targeted Thanksgiving Day as a special time to advertise new models and special clearance events. If anything, marathon cable programming may attract even more Automotive advertisers on a day that is already a magnet for auto advertising.

The next two largest categories (Furniture & Floor Coverings and Retail & Department Stores) are more or less in alignment with the local cable advertising shares we see company-wide during Thanksgiving Day.




When it comes to Thanksgiving Day dinner, so many culinary traditions have arisen over the years. Little did I know that the traditional oven-roasted turkey served in my home is actually optional in others, where you’re just as likely to find all sorts of comestibles, from deep-fried turkey, to ham, roast beef, pasta, pizza… you name it. And, of course, there will be one other dish served up in extra large portions – a savory selection of marathon programming on ad-supported cable TV.

Enjoy the feast!

Topics: holiday

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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