Some clever person came up with a devilish play on words when he (or she) created the title for the mega-hit reality-series, “Pawn Stars”(on History), and at the risk of sounding (very) old-fashioned, I suspect there was a time when the TV censors would have rejected that title with a large red pen. But in our present day society? Nope… not a chance.
Full disclosure: I’ve never stepped foot in a pawn shop, and if I ever passed one inhabited with guys like the stars of this show, I’m pretty sure I’d never cross over the threshold into their store. I won’t come out and say there’s something a little scary about them, but I will tell you that – if you are looking for a great deal – just keep on walking! The “Pawn Stars” are sharks (I mean highly practiced, sharp-eyed appraisers), and they are making a lot of money the old-fashioned way – buying low and selling high.
Why is “Pawn Stars” such a huge hit for History? Surely it has something to do with the fascinating back-and-forth price haggling, and there’s also the interesting historical background information on some of the more esoteric pieces that find their way inside the “Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.”
But that’s not enough to keep so many viewers returning to this show week-in and week-out. The main attraction is just watching three generations of owners plying their trade on the edge of the Las Vegas Strip while navigating all the (messy) interpersonal relationships that go along with running a family business — bickering, teasing, general banter, you name it.
Pawn, Pawn and More Pawn
In 2014, I don’t think viewers were complaining about not getting enough of their “Pawn Stars.” History scheduled back-to-back half-hour episodes practically every week of the year for a remarkable total of 96 episodes! And, yet, month after month “Pawn Stars” attracted sizeable viewing levels throughout the year, averaging a U.S. Household Rating of 1.9 (good for a 2.6 Share):
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Over the past two calendar years (2013 and 2014), 150 local cable advertisers have ordered over 1,000 spots in “Pawn Stars” across one-half of Viamedia’s market footprint. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
And within the markets that exhibited advertising on “Pawn Stars” over the past two years, we have seen a very healthy (76%) increase in ad investments, driven by both a surge in the number of 30-second spots and higher unit rates:
1) 31% rise in the number of 30-second units;
2) 34% rise in unit pricing;
3) 11% rise due to the multiplicative effect of units sold and pricing.
Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module) across all markets that exhibited local cable advertising on History’s “Pawn Stars” over the past two years (2013 & 2014.) Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Over the past two years, the automotive category has comprised 30% of all local advertising on “Pawn Stars”, and while that is the highest amount for the show, it’s actually lower than the share of automotive across all History programming. Not surprisingly, the retail/department store category achieved a 22% share on “Pawn Stars”, which is roughly 4-times the level we normally see for the network:
An Enviable Economic Multiplier
Surely there’s something fascinating about the items (and characters) that pass in an out of a pawn shop. But that alone would have never led to the success of “Pawn Stars” and the seemingly endless expansion of their “Gold & Silver Pawn Shop”, which depended upon History bringing the story of their family-run business to the attention of millions.
That (in turn) made the pawn shop a Las Vegas “tourist attraction”, leading countless new customers streaming into the place, thereby increasing the supply of unusual items that are haggled over in every episode. Which has led to more material that the directors at History can sift through to bring the home audience more interesting plot lines.
More interesting plot lines… more viewers… more customers… more items… and I think you get the general idea. “Pawn Stars” has created an enviable economic multiplier!
But there is a note of caution.
The show – along with the entire network – has sailed into some very choppy waters for the first half of 2015, with Total Day ratings down over 20% through the month of June, and along with it a steep decline in ”Pawn Star” ratings. Whether the network is dragging down the show or vice- versa is hard to discern, but our guess is that it may be a little of both. And it is also quite possible that, with over 400 original episodes that have aired since the summer of 2009, Pawn Stars” may be experiencing some viewer fatigue.
That said… there are a lot of shows on television that would gladly experience the sort of “viewer fatigue” that “Pawn Stars” is experiencing, which has achieved a solid 1.6 U.S. HH rating (2.2 share) through the end of June 2015. And, while “Pawn Stars” is in its ninth season, there really isn’t a “season” for this hit show. From the founder of the “Gold & Silver Pawn Shop”, Richard “Old Man” Harrison; to his son, Rick ‘The Spotter” Harrison; down to the grandson, Cory “Big Hoss” Harrison (yes – he’s quite large), they probably couldn’t care less what season they’re now in. They’re running a wildly successful, 24-hour-a-day pawn shop that has been a hit with viewers (and local cable advertisers) for literally hundreds of shows!
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia