Fun with ratings
The 2006-07 Nielsen Ratings chart is out. I always love perusing these lists more than the weekly Top 20s, as the deeper recesses of the schedule shows many of the ambiguities and randomness of the television industry and their decisions to renew or cancel a series. While the measurement of ratings itself is pretty questionable as an accurate measure of real viewer behaviors, they form a currency for the industry, providing the internal logic for selling audiences to advertisers that I’ve discussed before.
So what lies within this season’s chart? There are two key columns – total number of viewers (which provides the general ranking), and the ratings for the key 18-49 demographic which is all that the advertisers care about (well, most actually care more about 18-35 or 18-24, but 18-49 is the widely reported span that matters most). Here are some thoughts gleaned while perusing the chart:
- The press went on about how Lost‘s ratings were bottoming out this year. It ended the year ranked 17th overall, 9th with 18-49s, and reaching 14.6 million viewers. Last year it was 14th, 8th with the demos, with 15.5 mil viewers. Coupled with an alleged increase in online viewing and timeshifting, there simply was no real slide here. Meanwhile Heroes was hailed as much hotter and more popular than Lost. Its numbers: ranked 21st, 7th with demos (in a statistical tie with Lost), and 14.3 mil viewers. Lesson: ignore the press when they use ratings to chart a show’s fate.
- ER, which amazingly is still chugging along, ranked 31st overall and 17th with the quality demos. Who is still watching the show after all these years? Are they getting new younger viewers, or are the 20-somethings who watched in the 1990s still hooked into their 30s & 40s?
- The Office is considered a hit show by many people – it’s got a fair amount of buzz, a well-known star, and according to the screenwriting bloggers, it’s the favored show for aspiring writers to “spec” (write a sample script as a calling card). It’s the 68th most popular show on the air, behind shows you probably have barely heard of like 3 lbs, Smith, or The Class. Yet it’s ranked #28 among the young demos, still not great but the one of the largest leaps up in the list and beating the direct competition of Ugly Betty. What that means is that if you watch the show, you’re probably exactly who advertisers want to reach, the “quality audience.” (Pat yourself on the back…)
- In the end, CSI did beat Grey’s Anatomy by a hair in the marquee head-to-head match-up, but Grey’s pulls in slightly younger demos. Together, they split 40 million viewers practically in half, leaving poor Scrubs and 30 Rock to scrounge for scraps. Arguably NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up is as good as it’s ever been (high praise), yet it still comes in third at best. Thankfully NBC is willing to keep renewing the line-up, hoping the ratings will eventually follow.
- It’s clear that The CW is playing a totally different game than the other networks. Its best show ranks lower than any CBS or NBC show, and the bottom 10 is all CW. As a Veronica Mars fan, I can’t quite understand why they see it as less worth renewal than One Tree Hill, Everybody Hates Chris, or The Game, all of which have virtually equivalent ratings. So it goes.
- The gap between #4 and #7 is 1 million viewers. The gap between #37 and #44 is 1 million viewers. The gap between #50 and #68 is 1 million viewers. These numbers are based on the measured viewing of 10,000 households. There is a margin of error, which is never published in the press and cannot be found on Nielsen’s website. Believe these numbers as representing actual behaviors at your own risk.
Filed under: TV Industry, Viewers | 6 Comments