Use the 80/20 Rule To Attack Television


(By Charlie Sislen) The 80/20 rule is the one ring that pretty much rules them all. It says that 80% of the consumption comes from 20% of the users. In other words, heavy users drive consumption. The same can be said about television viewership. A small segment of the population watches the bulk of broadcast TV.

Don’t just take my word for it. You can prove this in your local market. If you are a Scarborough subscriber and utilize Tapscan, you can easily show how much broadcast television is viewed by different population segments. You can therefore document that a large segment (often nearly half) watch little or no broadcast TV, and that a small portion of your entire market is doing much of the TV consumption.

Simply click on the Crosstab report and make your column Adults 18+. For the rows, select Media Heaviness, Broadcast TV, and select all times.

This will segment your market’s entire population by how much TV they watch. Below is an example of the output that is automatically exported into Excel. You can see that of this market’s 4.5 million people, 1.4 million (32%) watch no broadcast TV. Another 1.1 million (23%) watch less than 9 1/2 hours of TV a week. In other words, 55% of the population watch little or no broadcast TV.

A quick calculation or two will determine that – per this example – over half (52.3%) of ALL television viewership is done by only 12.4% of the population.

To put this another way, if you allocate your entire ad budget for television, you are getting a tremendous frequency, but are missing a large portion of the population. The above example is based on the market’s total 18+ population. This same exercise can be done on a specific demographic group, or an advertiser’s target consumer.

So, who are these people who are not watching broadcast TV? That’s next in our “Growing the Radio Pie” series.

Need help understanding how to show an advertiser that only a small portion of the population consumes a majority of broadcast TV viewership? Feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Charlie Sislen is a partner at Research Director, Inc. He can be reached at 410-956-0363 or by e-mail at [email protected] This post is part of a series titled “Growing the Radio Pie.” To view past articles visit The Ratings Experts at Research Director, Inc. online here.



  1. To note, the Scarborough response Charlie is referring to actually pulls “No. 1/2 hours watched past 7 days.” In the example that Charlie is sharing, 23% watch less than 9 1/2-hour viewing sessions each week, which would actually be 4.5 total viewing hours or less.

  2. Here we go again, “attacking” another medium. How does this “attack” even remotely advance the merits of buying radio??? Presenting this “attack” information to any client – direct or agency – that is currently buying TV is in effect QUESTIONING their decision-making ability. How is that even possibly going to help your cause, to get them to like you and to buy you and buy radio??? And to present this”attack information” to a client just considering TV, will make you look negative and defensive.
    The consultants here on Radio Ink writing the constant “how to” columns granted, need to endear themselves to radio owners and top level station executives, to get their business. The problem is, many of those types are far far removed from the “front lines,” and the actual selling.
    Now, clients and agencies have more choices and places than ever, to spend their money. If they don’t like you, and if they are not convinced with COMPLELLING REASONS to buy YOUR product, there will be no sale. And going in and “attacking” another spend option is not a compelling reason to buy YOUR product. In fact, it is taking up their valuable time on something they didn’t ask for, makes you look negative, and puts you off the subject regarding the strengths of YOUR product and why they should buy your product.
    So bottom line, you are wasting their time (which will annoy them) on something not relevant as to why you are there, and you will put yourself further from the sale.


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