The malls are packed. People are crazed with the spending spirit. But I'm going shopping anyway -- shopping for TV programs where I can place ads that will be most likely to reach an all-important demographic: people between the ages of 25 and 54.
Let's say I want to place an ad during a local news broadcast. Based on ratings from November, at 6 a.m., I'd opt to advertise on WTAE. They have the highest "demo number" at that hour (WPXI and KDKA are tied for second). But at noon, I'd have to go with KDKA (WPXI and WTAE tie for second this time).
At 5 p.m., I'd put my money on WTAE, which was first (KDKA and WPXI tied for second). At 6 p.m., I could choose between KDKA and WTAE, which were tied for first (WPXI was second).
Demos are tough to break down because so often there are ties. And in the examples so far, there's been just one point separating first and second place. Only at 11 p.m. is there a clear difference. At that hour, WPXI is a clear No. 1 among people 25 to 54, with KDKA second (two points behind) and WTAE third (and behind WPXI by three points).
While the November household ratings, released earlier this month, demonstrate a particular newscast's popularity, demos are used by advertisers to target their advertising at a specific audience. That makes demo ratings tricky because there are so many different demographic breakdowns.
If I wanted to buy commercials to advertise a product -- say, beer -- targeted at men in their 20s, then I might look at a demo other than the people 25 to 54 demo I've used here. If I did media buying for a brewery, maybe I'd look at the men 18-to-34 rating.
It's no easier when scrutinizing entertainment programming.
At 4 p.m., "Judge Judy" has better ratings in the 25-54 demo among all viewers than "The Oprah Winfrey Show" or "Rosie O'Donnell," but if you shift the demo to women 25 to 54, "Oprah" and "Judge Judy" are tied for first, beating "Rosie."
Or take 8 p.m. Monday. If I want a commercial for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film to reach men 18 to 49, I'd definitely buy a spot on CBS's "King of Queens." But if I were selling a product designed primarily for women ages 12 to 24 -- maybe the new Backstreet Boys CD -- then The WB's "7th Heaven" would be the place to buy.
See? Shopping for the best shows to advertise on can be confusing, and of most interest to ad buyers or fans of TV minutia. I like trivia, but my head hurts thinking about all the different demographic ratings permutations. I'll just go shopping at amazon.com instead.
KDKA TELETHON: Tonight from 7 to 10 KDKA will televise the "Children's Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show." The 47th annual broadcast will be hosted by Jennifer Antkowiak, Patrice King Brown, Ken Rice and Stacy Smith.
Because of the telethon, the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" will air at 6:30 p.m. "Hollywood Squares" will be delayed until 3:37 a.m.
Two programs pre-empted in prime time also will air later. "A Home for the Holidays," a CBS special, will air at 1:37 a.m. "City of Angels" will air at 2:37 a.m.
TV NEWS DRAMAS: Scott Bairstow, Patricia Wettig and James Handy have joined the cast of TNT's one-hour TV newsroom drama series, "Breaking News." It premieres next summer.
Meanwhile, ABC is readying its own newsroom drama, "The Beast," for mid-season. Frank Langella will star as a media mogul who owns a cable news network. Jason Gedrick, Peter Riegert and Harriet Sansom Harris also star.
"BEGGARS" CANCELED: As I feared, but expected, Showtime canceled its 2-year-old comedy-drama series "Beggars & Choosers" this week. "Rude Awakenings," which completed three seasons, also bit the dust. ("Resurrection Blvd." was renewed for a second season to begin next summer.)
The remaining original "Beggars" episodes will air next month Tuesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Jan. 2.
The series finale will air Feb. 6, but fans (and I know of at least four others) won't get much closure. In an e-mail, executive producer Peter Lefcourt said he thought the show had a decent shot at renewal and several story lines will be left hanging.
Sorry "Beggars" fans: Looks like we're getting coal in our stockings this Christmas.
You can reach Rob Owen at email@example.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.