Post Type:post Face Off | Viamedia

Given my druthers, I tend to stay away from Halloween parties, especially those requiring guests to don some sort of mask. At some level, maybe it’s just because Halloween masks “creep me out” a little, and there are some crazy, scary ones out there– ware wolves; vampires, predators; monsters; you name it. 

But at another level, it isn’t so much the “fright” part, but rather the plain fact that I don’t really see the fun of everyone hiding their identities from one another. Don’t we all do that every day in oh so many subtle ways without any mask at all, save the ones we’re born with?

So, I wasn’t all that excited about catching a few episodes of Syfy’s long-running series, “Face Off”, a reality-based contest show with quite a twist (that I ended up liking!) Rather than contestants battling over prepared meals, tests of physical endurance, tropical island survival or dating & mating competitions, “Face Off” brings together very talented ‘special effects’ make-up artists who compete against one another (in an elimination format) for various prizes (including a lot of cash.) 

And the “living art” creations they make are something to behold as they employ an amazing array of facial prosthetics, molds and casts. It took me awhile to catch on to the show’s clever title, which can be taken literally as a “face-off” between contestants, and the apparent removal of the face (taking the face off) with special effects. 

The show is now entering its ninth season (premiere date July 28th), and since 2012 has been airing two seasons in a calendar year – winter and summer/fall. Indeed, the ratings performance for the show has been a “tale of two seasons”, with a downward trend during the winter and a steady, consistent pattern over the past three summer/fall seasons (Seasons #3, #5 and #7):


A Mixed Audience Profile

Given the magical (and fantastical) nature of “Face Off”, our assumption was that there might be a heavy viewing skew toward homes with kids. But after looking at Acxiom PersonicX Clusters, we found the show’s audience to be a lot more nuanced than we first suspected.

In a nut-shell, PersonicX is a household-level consumer segmentation analysis that divides practically every home in America into one of seventy unique clusters across an array of demographic, behavior-graphic and lifestyle characteristics. By matching the unique characteristics of PersonicX clusters to their set-top-box panel homes, Rentrak has created PersonicX HH ratings for all the programs they measure.

Out of 70 PersonicX Clusters, we found 15 with a minimum 130 ratings index (or higher) for “Face Off.” And out of these 15 top-rated clusters, the first seven all tend to have the presence of children. So, we would normally conclude there’s a strong kid-skew to the show – except for the fact that most of the remaining clusters represent homes without children!

Where we found greater consistency amongst the clusters is with the level of household income and “urbanicty”. Many of the clusters encompass homes that are on the lower end of the income scale, and most of them represent homes located in urban and urban surrounding areas:


Local Cable Advertising Demand

Local cable ad demand for “Face Off” has been strong over the past several years. For the 2014 calendar year (which encompasses Seasons Six & Seven), nearly 90 advertisers across 27 Viamedia markets ordered nearly 1,000 30-second spots – that comes to an average of eleven  spots per advertiser. And when we confine our analysis to only those Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising on the show over the Summer/Winter period of 2013-14 and 2014-15, we find an 18% investment growth rate driven exclusively by an expansion in the number of 30-second commercial spots. (Source: B.I.G.SM   database — Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

In terms of local cable advertising categories, automotive takes the lion’s share at 39%, which is more or less in line with other reality-based contest shows we’ve reviewed in this space. And so, too, is the 25% tune-in share as competing cable (and broadcast) networks seek to reach “Face Off’s” core audience:


Season 9 (Summer/Fall 2015)

As is often the case with various contest shows, the judges are as much a part of the entertainment as the actual contestants, and “Face Off” is no exception. And holding the entire series together is the actress, McKenzie Westmore, whose last name connects her (not coincidentally) to the famous multi-generational line of Hollywood make-up artists – the Westmore Family. She is ably assisted by several judges who know a thing or two about make-up effects, including Academy Award winning artist Ve Neill (“Beetlejuice” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”), Emmy Award winning artist Glenn Hetrick (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and British-born “concept designer”, Neville Page (“Star Trek”.)

No doubt they (along with the show’s creators) will cook up some devilish themes that will test the artistry and technique of young aspiring artists wishing to advance their careers to the next level (starting July 28th.) And along the way, viewers will be treated to some of the strangest creations being made on television today.

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– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia