The basic currency of programme performance can be explained in two questions – how many millions and what sort of millions?
For better or worse, these basic criteria remain in gorillas-with calculators territory.
Dig deeper and you get to the strategic level. How schedulers manage audiences, and how agencies use them, has become a lot cleverer in the intervening years.
Sentiment and vagueness in programme supply decisions have steadily diminished as competition for an essentially fixed supply of eyeballs has risen.
The fact the eyeballs themselves are not diminishing stands greatly to the credit of the people who make these supply decisions. To this extent, our TV is in great shape, and healthy ad revenues reflect this.
But, in TV more than any other medium, success or failure rests on an unrelenting flow of line-byline decisions, so this is how it must be judged.
This is why we started publishing Zenith Optimedia On TV in January 1991 and it has appeared three times a year ever since, coinciding with the three TV seasons – winter, spring/summer and autumn.
Here are this season's highlights:
Life Begins Eight big episodes. Can repentant Phil win her back? 2004 took nearly half of all female viewing. Puts the "fast" and "moving" into FMCG.
William and Mary Another winter biggie. 2004 averaged 8.5 million, mangling BBC1's Messiah 2. Textbook ITV drama profile.ABC1 women 35+
Wire in the Blood Came off the boil in 2004 tracking ITV1's general loss of share, but it still turned in 6.7 million and comfortably won its segment. A big basic audience we'll miss when Sky's given everyone PVRs. Adults 45+
Footballers' Wives Roasting, HIV and baby-swapping. Found and kept a loyal 6.5 million from the 2002 kick-off. Last winter's run did 44% of 16 to 24s.
Bombshell Army drama with Zoe Lucker from Footballers' Wives pitched at the Footballers demographic. Both series are from Shed, apple of ITV's weekday eye. ABC1 women 16 to 44 years old.
The Osbourne Hour Chat-based vehicle with Shazzer and Ozzie, and part of ITV1's plan to make you stay in on Saturdays. An inspired commission, which deserves equally inspired scheduling support when the audience might otherwise be expecting Parky. Housewives-with-children.
Ladette to Lady Ten deep-dyed chav girls go to finishing school for this eliminator. Descended from ITV's previous RDF commission Holiday Showdown , which collected 6.5 million with doorsteps of housewives-with-children.
The Contender Sylvester Stallone and some real boxers "mentor" 16 pupils. Five's recent Boxing Academy picked up a 9% share of 16 to 34-year-old men, which will be the main demograph here.
Third Rock From The Sun Now exclusive to ITV2. BBC2 used to get 400,000 with a clear 16 to 34- year-old men bias. Most now have ITV2 so let's get the news to them.
UEFA Champions League This is an ITV2 star, capturing an average of 726,000 and providing 11 of ITV2's top-20 ratings since launch. It's men, of course.
The new third channel celebrates ITV's 50th this year with classics like Cracker, A Bit Of A Do , Jeeves &Wooster , Cadfael, and Wycliffe.
Proven 100,000-200,000 performers include Foyle's War , Inspector Wexford , Touching Evil, Poirot and A Touch Of Frost (more like 300,000, this one). That fewer people are seeing these on first transmission means the potential audience to ITV3 grows correspondingly. We hope.
Bed & Bardsleys Wife Swap uber-chavs the Bardsleys run a Blackpool B&B. Four one-hour episodes which should find their way north of three million. ABC1 women 16 to 34 years old.
The Dark Side Of Porn Four documentaries for March. Porn related programmes mainly appeal to younger men, unsurprisingly. Modest numbers but light viewers, if your brand doesn't mind the environment.
100 Greatest Four can't kick the listing habit, and a good job too. This lot are war films, cartoons, pop videos and tearjerkers. The genre's top performer so far was Christmas 2003's Greatest Musicals (3.8 million) and the weakest was kids' TV which did 1.5 million. A fantastic franchise in great long dollops. You're looking at ABC1 men.
Bad Behaviour Three-part Cutting Edge extension about taming monstrous children without Ritalin or blunt objects. The original Cutting Edge won its segment with 4.6 million and 21%, indexing well against all women and housewife groups.
No Angels The first 10-week run of this NHS ensembler collected 20%of 16 to 24 viewing, but in crude numbers totalled 2.1 million, which Five managed with Law & Order at a fraction of the cost. Must improve to return. Teachers got sacked for less. Housewives 16 to 44.
The Games Extended from seven days to nine, with E4 warm-ups. 2004 started on two million and ended on 3.5m, averaging a 21% share of ABC1 16 to 34 year olds against top ITV1 drama. Hoping for a cleaner start this time.
Wife Swap Still in good shape last autumn with 3.9 million and 28% of young upmarket women over six weeks. Four never gets complacent with bankers though.
Joey Five is running all 24 episodes of Joey paired with CBS' hit comedy Two And A Half Men. Five wants more 16 to 34 impacts, and it's not sharing Joey with Sky or anyone else to keep the "satellite" audience to itself. It has identified comedy as an important 16 to 34 recruiter missing from its mix and we can expect comedy commissions later this year.
CSI New York This variation wins its 10pm segment for CBS with a 10% homes share. Five's Saturday CSIs average 2.2 million, but struggle on profile. DE men 55+
James Cameron's Bismarck From the people who found the Titanic.The main audience for serious history is older upmarket men.
Built to Kill Wildlife for Five's new 7.15pm soap slot. Might not manage a million, but could set up glossier 8pm wildlife. C2DE 35+
Superships A 13-part production for the 7.15pm slot. A proper soap alternative for men. Similar stuff often gets a million.
Celebrity Hours Geri Halliwell, Kate Moss and Catherine Zeta Jones. Compare to Victoria Beckham's Secrets, which did 2.1 million and a 17% share of 16 to 34 women.
Dream Home Abroad Rearrangement of Dream Holiday Home in hours rather than halves. Resembles Four's Grand Designs Abroad .DHH is ABC1 35+; this will be older.
Nigel Marven Five's wildlife action man, recently seen on ITV1's Saturday nighter Scream If You Want To Get Off, which ITV did. His autumn run for Five did 1.4 million and an 8% share of men.
How Not To Decorate Ridicule and relief for the decoratively challenged. Piloted promisingly last summer with 1.4 million and 10% shares of rarer females like ABC1s and housewives-with-kids.
Sky One wants to be as important to subscribers as Sky Sports is, so it is adding "value" (cost) to the schedule and wants to be known and appreciated for more than sci-fi, The Simpsons and Ibiza Uncovered.
It made a special effort to diversify its acquired US drama last year and to return the important ones in 2005. This winter it is also spending more on authored (presenter based) popular documentaries
Entertainment Tonight Weekly edition of the daily American Hollywood report adapted for the UK. A pilot majored in 16 to 24s opposite Holby but the full series will widen to 16 to 44s.
Undercover Magic Illusionists play tricks on the idiot UK public and pass on a few secrets to celebrities to amaze their unsuspecting friends with. Plenty of Sky form in this genre – a cert for a broad under- 45 audience with plenty of kids.
Father Of The Pride Pixar-quality animation lends knowing adult characterisation to Siegfried & Roy's white lions for modern morality tales. Did OK in the US, but very expensive and a bit of a stretch for the NBC audience, so renewal unlikely. Will suit Futurama 's under-34s.
Nip/Tuck The 2004 run averaged 768,000 and 7% for Sky One, though it had trouble hanging on to them for the last few weeks.Has done a million and should do more now Four's made it famous. The demographic is housewives 16 to 44 years old.
Cold Case Unsolved murders reopened, with family connections to CSI. The 2004 season sustained 318,000 and 3% on Sky One with a useful housewives-with-children profile. A possible grower.
Dead Like Me Dark comedy of the highest production values. The first run attracted 300,000 and a 4% share of 16 to 34s.
Interactive Digital Sales (IDS) channels
Charmed (Living TV) Collects about 460,000 and 3.4%, with a thousand repeats a year. Vital to the schedule, but flagging in the US. Attracts women 16 to 34 years old.
Most Haunted (Living TV) Routinely hits a quarter million and 2%, with a double helping of housewives-with-children.
Extreme Makeover UK (Living TV) Invasive cosmetic surgery. The pilot attracted 140,000 and 1.5% of housewives-with-children viewing. Should improve on this.
Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets (Bravo) Like last year's scheduled-to death Gadgets And Stuff which did around 45,000 on good days with a broad under-45 audience.GGG gets a settled 8.30pm weekday slot.
All the UKTV channels are taking part in a "most memorable telly" season in March, featuring programmes which got everyone talking. The idea is to make the UKTV brand cohere like the Discovery one, inducing viewers to stay in the UKTV paddock and giving the channels something worth cross-promoting about.
Only Fools And Horses (UK TV Gold) There were 66 episodes made and Gold showed all of them last year. Top holiday episodes do half a million and standard peak manages between 200,000 and 400,000 with a useful working family profile.
Adam Smith is head of knowledge management at Zenith Optimedia and writes Zenith Optimedia on TV, which has just been published.
This article was first published on Media Week