Long Island Medium
If ever the literary phrase, “willing suspension of disbelief,” applied to a cable television series, then TLC’s “Long Island Medium” is it! Or, if you’re of a less charitable nature, and you just want to call a spade a spade… well, then, this show is a perfect illustration of “a sucker born every minute.” This reality-series has been luring viewers in since 2011 with Theresa Caputo serving as the big hook. Apparently, she can communicate with the dead – a skill that goes back to the age of four (*see end footnote.) But whether or not the Hicksville, Long Island mother of two really has such supernatural powers matters little at all. All it takes is a “believer” to get caught up in Ms. Caputo’s intuition, educated guesses and vague generalities… and, voila, you have a psychic with amazing paranormal powers.
The psychic readings are typically given in the quiet and comfort of Theresa Caputo’s home, where you’ll also encounter her husband and children. She’ll also travel to the homes of others, and just to keep the show fresh she will on occasion engage with well-known media personalities, such as soap-queen, Susan Lucci, and model/actress, Olivia Munn. Her subjects typically come in one of two varieties – the vulnerable, who are desperately seeking to communicate with a deceased loved one, and the skeptical. But regardless of her subjects, the brassy Theresa Caputo, with big-hair and big-nails, plunges right in with a set of probing questions until she hits upon a promising lead. Once she’s on the “right track,” the spirits of the dearly departed come to life.
Or… so it seems!
Remarkably, in a span of just four-and-a-half years, the show has aired 130 episodes broken into 9 seasons. That’s a lot of spirits flying around in a relatively compressed period of time. Between the general audience erosion we’ve seen for Live TV viewing, and the viewer fatigue that “Long Island Medium” may have engendered with so many episodes, it is not surprising that the show has floated back down to earth over the past few seasons. Still, it’s most recent ratings performance (in 2016) is about 25% higher than TLC’s average rating in the show’s regular time slot:
New York & Michigan Market Skew
“Long Island Medium” is unique among the dozens of shows we’ve written about — every Top 25 viewing market resides north of the Mason-Dixon Line with over half of them found in Michigan and New York State. Of some note is that all of the markets within New York are upstate, which is much more rural and less populated than the downstate area (which includes Long Island.) Moreover, these markets (such as Albany, Syracuse and Utica) are all part of what was once known as the “Burned-Over District” which roughly follows the east-west line of the Mohawk Valley and the Erie Canal. In a nutshell, this area of upstate New York is closely associated with several religious (and progressive) movements known for their extreme passion and zeal – emotions that were metaphorically linked to a raging fire that burns over a forest, thus the name of the region. Coincidentally or not, it is a history that is strangely echoed in “Long Island Medium” with its emphasis on fervent supernatural belief:
Local Cable Advertising Support
Over the past two calendar years (which encompasses Seasons Six through Nine), “Long Island Medium” attracted over 100 clients across 31 Viamedia markets (40%+ of our national footprint.) Collectively, they ordered 600 spots which comes to an average of over 5 spots per client. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In terms of local advertising categories, Entertainment & Travel captures over one-third of all cable dollars — a level that far surpasses anything we’ve seen before across the numerous shows and sporting events we’ve covered in this space. Normally, this category attracts roughly 5% of all local cable advertising, so “Long Island Medium” is capturing Entertainment & Travel dollars at a rate 7-times the average amount! In contrast, the Automotive category is usually the highest, and (company-wide) typically attracts about one-third of all advertising. But as can be seen in the pie chart below, “Long Island Medium” captures just a little over half that share (18%):
In terms of local market advertising categories, Automotive is far and away the largest, capturing a whopping 64% of all cable ad investments – a figure that is 27 share points higher than what we normally see for this category company-wide. The second largest category (Restaurants – at 9%) is also over-represented, capturing a share level that is double the typical level:
On to Season Ten
I have a strong suspicion that viewers of “Long Island Medium” have one of two reasons for tuning to the show. Either they have a good deal of faith, and truly believe they can touch the spirits of dearly departed loved ones; or, for the sheer entertainment value of watching a practiced hustler plying her trade – not in the ominous, sepulcher-like tones of a psychic from some horror flick, but rather in an accent and voice straight out of Brooklyn. But whatever their reasons, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the show is that Theresa Caputo has single-handedly sustained it for 130 episodes, and – despite a decline in ratings — continues to pull in viewership levels that would be the envy of many a cable show!
*Footnote: (New York Post interview by Debbie Little; “Rare Medium Well Done”; March 24, 2012.)
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia