The mcarp guide to sweeps series planning

(I am pleased to deliver more prophecy from the mcarp archives…)

Place blame now, and avoid the rush.

Sweeps. Or, in newsroom vernacular, “Oh, shit.”

But consistent sweeps series production is easy if you plan, plan, plan.

Herewith, the mcarp guide to planning and executing ratings sweeps series.

Six months before ratings:

Key newsroom managers meet to plan sweeps ‘summit.’

This preliminary meeting should include the news director, assistant news director, chief photographer, and the marketing or promotions director.

Key managers coordinate schedules of mid-level managers, including producers, for upcoming ‘summit’ in 30 days.

Five months before ratings:

Postpone ‘summit’ because most mid-level managers are on vacation. Reschedule for 30 days later.

Four months before ratings:

Hold sweeps series ‘summit’. Producers are urged to plan well in advance, so marketing can arrange appropriate print and radio support.

Producers solicit series ideas from newsroom personnel.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled in 30 days.

Three months before ratings:

Mid-level managers meet in follow-up session. Series suggestions submitted by newsroom staff are read aloud and ridiculed.

Managers agree to meet again in 30 days to come up with some real series ideas, about bee-stung lips and other stuff people are talking about.

Two months before ratings:

Employee evaluations are conducted.

Newsroom staff is reprimanded for not coming up with more series ideas.

One month before ratings:

Mid-level managers lay out schedule for shooting series borrowed from Good Morning, America and USA TODAY articles.

Three weeks before ratings:

General manager throws out all series ideas after getting fax from consultant recommending series that appeared in three other markets last sweeps period, and done locally by competition two years ago.

Mid-level managers retool sweeps production schedule. Marketing begins building new promos from scratch.

One week before ratings:

Mid-level managers meet to check progress on shooting and production of sweeps segments.

They learn no pieces have been completed due to an unexpectedly heavy incidence of car wrecks, garage fires, and skateboarding pets during previous weeks.

Managers discuss which series can be salvaged by turning them into one-part ‘minidocs’ or ‘special reports’ (formerly known as ‘stories’).

Promos for nonexistent series begin airing.

Morning of air:

Crews frantically race to throw together grab-ass footage to create something that resembles the promos which are now airing.

Crews should strive to duplicate subject matter closely enough that a viewer may not notice the difference between the promo and the story if there’s a ringing phone or barking dog in the house while the story airs.

Post-sweeps follow-up:

Managers meet to blame field crews’ ‘bad attitudes’ for causing system-wide breakdown, and pledge that next sweeps, they’ll plan ahead.


This is not going to happen again.

(originally published by Michael Carpenter, republished with permission.)

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  1. Ike Pigott says:

    How TV stations plan their Sweeps stories (hasn't changed in over a decade) |

  2. Brock N. Meeks says:

    RT @ikepigott: How TV stations plan their Sweeps stories (hasn't changed in over a decade) |

  3. Best Fresh Content Pick: The mcarp guide to sweeps series planning by @ikepigott

  4. Ike Pigott says:

    Sweeps planning in local TV newsrooms has NOT changed at all over the years… |

  5. susancellura says:

    RT @ikepigott: Sweeps planning in local TV newsrooms has NOT changed at all over the years… |

  6. […] article they landed on, the MCarp Guide to Sweeps Series Planning, is a republishing of a piece more than a decade old, and it still rings true […]