'Manifest' Viewers Are Actually Watching Commercials

Overall gains for broadcast shows in the ratings used to set ad rates remain fairly modest.
Peter Kramer/NBC/Warner Brothers
'Manifest'

The first set of commercial ratings for the broadcast networks in 2018-19 follows a pattern in recent years: modest ratings gains in the adults 18-49 demographic, and shows with already strong numbers performing the best.

The so-called C3 and C7 ratings — which measure the number of viewers who actually watch the commercials in programming — are the ones used to set ad rates for network shows, and they're not often made public. Ad Age obtained numbers for the first two weeks of the season, and they show a similar pattern to recent years: Most shows get a modest gain from their same-day ratings but fall short of the more publicized live-plus-3 and live-plus-7 ratings.

The best performer in the C3 and C7 metrics in the early going is NBC's new drama Manifest — no surprise, as it's also the highest-rated new drama of the season and has put up very strong numbers in the broader delayed-viewing measures.

The show's first two episodes averaged a 2.0 same-day rating in adults 18-49. It rose to 2.6 in C3 and 2.8 in C7, the biggest gains for any show from Sept. 24-Oct. 7. (The show's commercial ratings, however, are well below the 3.6 average in live-plus-3 and 3.9 in live-plus-7 for the first two episodes.)

ABC's The Good Doctor had the second-largest gains of 0.5 in C3 and 0.7 in C7. That bumps the show up from 32nd place in the same-day rankings for the first two weeks of the season to 14th.

NBC's This Is Us (3.0 in C3, 3.3 in C7) has the best commercial 18-49 ratings of any non-sports show over the first two weeks, followed by CBS' The Big Bang Theory (2.6/2.9) and NBC's Manifest.

Taken as a whole, though, the gains from C3 and C7 for network series were not that big. The average show grew by 15 percent (1.3 to 1.5) in C3, with an additional tenth of a point in C7, per Ad Age. That's in line with commercial-ratings gains for each of the past three seasons.

The commercial gains, however, are well below the 37 percent average bump (1.24 to 1.7) in live-plus-3 and 51 percent gain (to 1.87) in live-plus-7.

The latter numbers paint a prettier picture for the broadcast networks: Manifest's 3.6 live-plus-3 rating is roughly 4.9 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic. To advertisers, though, the ones that matter are the 3.33 million (the equivalent to the show's 2.6 C3 rating) who took time to watch their commercials.