The main takeaway appears to be that while the absence of the show will certainly be felt — recall that just two weeks ago it headlined ABC’s upfront pitch to advertisers — the financial pain will be somewhat limited in the near term. Plus, you can’t put a price on the headaches the company avoided by cutting the cord.
Roseanne was a midseason show whose meteoric ratings success had yet to be monetized. The network is in the midst of upfront negotiations with advertisers that will carry on without the show. The entire lifespan of its resurrection 21 years after the finale of its original incarnation aired was just two months — not exactly like Homer Simpson going on a Twitter rampage. The loss is more about what might have been, rather, than revenue already booked. Kantar Media has estimated the show’s initial run of nine episodes over eight nights netted $45 million in ad revenue.
While plenty of mainstream advertisers — among them McDonald’s and Pepsi, according to TV data and analytics firm Alphonso — had enthusiastically bought into the show, many were monitoring Roseanne Barr’s increasingly flammable social-media bomb-throwing with increasing scrutiny. “Top brands recognize the need to advertise to a multiplicity of audiences and demographics,” said T.S. Kelly, SVP Research at Alphonso. “It makes sense that they wouldn’t want to align with TV personalities that don’t fit this approach. Alienating audiences is not in their best interest.”
According to Standard Media Index, Roseanne was the fourth most expensive comedy on the broadcast airwaves. The investment did yield a substantial return, of course, with advertisers paying an average of $167,159 for a 30-second spot on Roseanne in April, more than for Modern Family and 55% higher than the average for all broadcast comedies.
For Disney on a corporate level, the impact even in success was slight. The show premiered just four days before the March 31 end of the second quarter. CEO Bob Iger and his team did not give it more than a passing mention in the Q2 earnings call with analysts, perhaps a reflection of the fact that the Media Networks division accounts for just 7% of operating profit at the overall company, which makes much more from theme parks.
Another reason the cancellation will not have a longer-term financial impact: the series is not owned by Disney but rather independent production company Carsey-Werner. In fact, Disney Media Distribution, Disney’s international sales arm, had a first window to close global sales on the revival’s first season before rights reverted back Carsey-Werner and its own sales division.
Those who lined up to advertise on the reboot were handsomely rewarded in terms of reaching a mass audience. Ad tracker iSpot.tv estimates that Roseanne generated 1.4 billion TV ad impressions from 204 primetime ad airings for new episodes alone. Beyond ABC, re-airings of previous seasons have spanned TV Land, Paramount Network, CMTV, Logo and Laff TV — though one by one those were discontinued as today wore on. While 46% of TV ad impressions come from 325 ad airings on ABC, nearly 30% of TV device impressions for ads have come from TV Land, which recorded more than 8,000 ad airings, iSpot said.
Advertisers drawn to the show will have other options on ABC. It is a virtual certainty that whatever goes in the Roseanne time slot will come cheaper because it won’t likely reach 18 million total viewers as the Roseanne premiere did. Including its syndicated extensions, the Roseanne TV show collectively offered slots to more than 500 brands, generating 4.3 billion TV ad impressions from more than 30,000 TV airings.
Buzz is the other variable ABC and Disney are willingly stepping away from, though that, of course, cuts both ways.
Canvs, which measures emotional reactions to TV content on social media, found the show to be the TV sitcom that generated by far the most reaction of any other. Over the course of the 2017-2018 season, social conversations referencing Roseanne generated more than four times as many emotional reactions than No. 2 show Brooklyn Nine Nine.
The reactions were far from positive, however. Canvs sifted through 95,000 emotional comments on social media before today’s scandal. In that sample, Roseanne had a “dislike” level nearly 20 times that of an average sitcom and a “hate” level that was 18.3 times higher than average.