Despite the state of flux in media today, television remains the dominant player globally for advertising spend. Since television advertising time is purchased on the basis of projected future ratings, and ad costs have skyrocketed, there is increasing pressure to forecast television ratings accurately. Previous forecasting methods are not generally very reliable and many have not been validated, but more distressingly, none have been tested in today’s multichannel environment. In this study we compare 8 different forecasting models, ranging from a naïve empirical method to a state-of-the-art Bayesian model-averaging method. Our data come from a recent time period, 2004-2008 in a market with over 70 channels, making it more typical of today’s viewing environment. Simple models that are commonly used in industry do not forecast as well as any econometric models. Furthermore, time series methods are not applicable, as many programs are broadcast only once. However, we find that a relatively straightforward random effects regression model often performs as well as more sophisticated Bayesian models in out-of-sample forecasts. Finally, we demonstrate that making improvements in ratings forecasts can save the television industry between $250 and $586 million per year.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_smith/27/