I’m hoping most of you are too busy barbecuing, hiking, playing golf, nursing a hangover, or just sleeping in to read this. You deserve a great holiday weekend. I’m on a plane to Minneapolis with my family and, it turns out, I enjoy writing more than reading – so here you go.

My research over the past week was almost singularly focused on one thing – the TV ‘Upfronts’ and the newly-announced shows for the fall season. I’m fascinated by the trends in media consumption and how they’re changing the landscape for everyone from networks to cable/satellite providers, web publishers, advertisers, and agencies.

Here’s what we are seeing in that research…

It’s really hard to predict which – if any – shows will be a huge hit. In 2015, we studied the top 13 shows with the highest amount of media attention and buzz after the Upfronts that year. Of those, only 3 are still on the air. None of the top-5 (based on early interest, buzz, and viewer intent) survived more than one season. That included shows like the Muppets or Of Kings and Prophets, which seemed at the time like slam dunks. We studied 14 shows for the 2017 fall season – and there’s no reason to believe our Gen Pop ‘intent’ metrics will prove to be any more predictive this time around. That wasn’t the point of our research.

The definition of a successful TV show is changing before our very eyes. Fickle consumers, faced with near-infinite entertainment choices, and ever-fragmented media platforms don’t want ‘mainstream’. Winning shows appeal to narrow audience cohorts, people defined more by their psychographic similarities (values, attitudes, lifestyle) than obtuse, old-school demographics. We want to talk about the shows we watch and – more and more – we only want to talk to people like us. If you look at the surviving shows from our 2015 research (Supergirl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Blindspot), they have modest but highly-loyal and clearly-defined viewer groups. We do see commonalities among those audiences, which could help us predict a show’s success in the future.

It’s all about the women. While networks and advertisers drone on about the ‘coveted 25-54 male demo’, the most crucial, influential television success driver is indisputably female – and a very particular female at that. As we have seen consistently over the past two years, there is a clearly-defined TV “Market Maven”, namely, news-obsessed, social-media-addicted woman, who tries new things before her friends, and broadcasts her opinions for all to hear – she has tremendous influence over her peer group and her household.

Think about the people in your social networks who were first talking about This is Us last fall. I’ll bet they weren’t men, were they? I’d never even heard of the show. Now it’s the hottest thing on network TV. Incidentally, the likely viewers from our 3 surviving 2015 shows all heavily-over-indexed as Market Mavens. If I was a network exec, I’d be doing everything in my power to connect with, monitor, and persuade this group. And I’d start by investing aggressively in social media.

While an individual show’s audience may be smaller, the opportunities for advertisers might be bigger. For each of the likely audiences we studied this year, we saw clear affinities for certain brands and brand categories (See: The Orville and Kia). Very little of this had anything to do with demography. Brands that align with the right show and the right audience can build a loyalty foothold. It’s all about precision.

Check out the full report I put together, if you want to see our assessment of the individual shows. But I think these observations are relevant to much more than a dozen-plus TV shows, most of which won’t be on the air a year from now anyway. These are big societal and commercial shifts we’re seeing.

Sorry if you’re partial to my more ‘cross-topic’ missives. I’ll get back to that next week, I promise.

Have an awesome holiday weekend.

Hoping you’re well,