The size and demographics of the audience are crucial to a television program’s success. It will soon be canceled if the most well-liked program can’t attract a significant enough audience to tune in each week. The A.C. Nielsen Firm, a New York-based Dutch company, tracks viewership trends. The standard by which networks assess their programs’ success and decide whether to renew, terminate, shift to a different time slot and other decisions is known as the “Nielsen ratings.” The price an advertiser pays for 10, 15 and 30-second advertising time slots is determined by ad rates, equally important for recruiting advertisers.
Every day, Nielsen takes a representative sample of families and asks them to log their television viewing digitally or in a paper diary. The demographics of the general American viewing public are represented by these Nielsen families, which are used to estimate real television viewership. Nielsen can determine viewing patterns, who is watching, and whether they keep watching after turning on a show using these audience statistics.
To do this, Nielsen uses audience sampling. This research technique examines what and how people watch television by taking a small sample of individuals proportionally representing a wider population along several important criteria. This research methodology is frequently employed in political polling, such as when CBS News surveys sample a small number of representative voters and project who would win an election and how much based on the poll’s findings.
This type of sampling contains what is referred to as error, or the discrepancy between the number of viewers Nielsen is informed by the sample and the actual number of viewers (known to statisticians as “the truth”). For an estimate of 1.0 million viewers, the actual viewership is anywhere between.95 (-5%) and 1.05 (+5%) million viewers since most statisticians try to keep their margin of error within a 5 percent range. The estimate is less precise the wider the bands. It should be emphasized that Nielsen doesn’t disclose its margin of error, which frequently suggests that it is significant, maybe reaching +/-10%.
Every Monday through Friday, the morning following each evening’s broadcast, Nielsen ratings are released (Saturday data are reported with Sunday data on Monday.) Networks will use Nielsen’s “quick national” ratings, based on their electronic data collection and provided by 10:00 am Pacific time, for morning-after PR press releases and other time-sensitive activities. Nielsen’s “broadcast final” rating figures, which are more thorough and reliable, have been made public by mid-afternoon. The networks focus their attention on these final broadcast ratings. Over extended periods, Live + 3 Day and Live + 7 Day ratings are followed (three weeks for the latter.) What, then, do those numbers indicate?
Viewership, Rating, and Share are ways to gauge your audience
Assume Nielsen says that 10.65 million people watched an episode of Person of Interest, which received a 3.0 rating and 17 shares. Is that positive or cause for concern? Understanding how to read the rating data is essential. Nielsen employs several methods to gauge the viewership of a particular episode. The three most typical techniques are:
Viewership: An estimation of the true audience size for a program. The simplest metric is how many Nielsen estimates watch Person of Interest, and do they continue to do so? For this purpose, Nielsen provides average viewership for a complete program and intervals of half an hour. This makes it possible for Nielsen to ascertain the number of people who tune in and how many of those viewers continue to watch during the second half of the broadcast, which is crucial during a show’s initial episodes. With the help of this technology, Nielsen is also able to calculate audience retention and analyze hour-to-hour viewing patterns. CBS is curious to know how much of the NCIS: LA (9:00 pm) audience Person of Interest is able to hold onto at 10:00 pm. On the same night when NCIS: LA had 13.27 million viewers and POI had 10.65 million viewers, POI kept 80% of its lead-in audience.
The fact that the prospective audience for a program varies from week to week and from night to night is one of the main issues with comprehending viewing data. 10.65 million viewers might represent 15% of the individuals that genuinely watch television one week and 24% the following. Furthermore, a major portion of the audience may be drawn away for one or two nights by a significant event like the World Series. Day of the week, time of day, and potential TV audience all play a role in how we interpret and, particularly, compare viewership figures from week to week, from season to season, or between shows. For example, the potential TV audience is larger on a Thursday than on a Tuesday and at 9:00 than at 10:00. Because of this, viewing numbers by themselves is a poor indicator of how successful a show actually is. To address this issue, Nielsen employs the rating and share statistics, two extra metrics that statistically equalize viewership figures, so we may draw some comparisons.
Rating: According to Nielsen, there are presently 115.6 million television households in the United States or homes with one or more televisions. A rating point equals 1.156 million viewers, or 1% of all television homes watching the program. Therefore, 3.468 million homes or 3 x 1.156 would make up a 3.0 rating.
Nielsen can measure audience subgroups by age, gender, and ethnicity in addition to the overall audience through the use of ratings. The 18-49 age group, which Nielsen and the majority of advertisers believe to be the most active spenders, is the most valued demographic and the rating we typically see reported (a supposition that is increasingly being called into question.) Therefore, according to our 3.0 rating, 3.47 million households with at least one person aged 18 to 49, or 3% of all households with such a person, tuned in to POI.
Share: The proportion of active (on and in use) televisions that viewed a particular program is known as the audience share. A 17 share means that 17% of the televisions in use are currently tuned to Person of Interest. Despite being the least-reported number, it is the most illuminating because it tells us the proportion of viewers that watched POI who were actually watching TV as opposed to potential viewers.
Viewership, rating, and share are all reported by Nielsen during various time frames. They used to exclusively represent live viewers. Since the introduction of the VCR and, more recently, the DVR and other electronic media, Nielsen has started to gather information on time-shifted viewership. These data are reported for three-time blocks: Live + Same Day audience (viewers who watch live or within 24 hours), Live + 3 Day, and Live + 7 Day (time-shifted or “DVR” viewership over the following three, then seven days.) Time-shifted data collection by Nielsen started in 2005, but advertisers were hesitant to use them until about 2010. As a result, we have only just started to see this data commonly reported. In addition, Nielsen gathers information on both original broadcasts and repeats’ viewership. Rating information for each broadcast of programs that air twice in an evening, as is common with many cable summer programs, is obtained and reported separately.
Viewership and ratings are especially crucial in November, February, and May of each broadcast season. The amount networks will charge for advertising time is based on the ratings during these times known as “sweeps”: the higher the ratings, the more a network may charge for 10, 15, and 30-second advertising time slots, and the more renowned advertisers they will attract. Reruns are uncommon during these times since they draw much fewer viewers. The focus of sweeps are always brand-new, prominent programming.
When shows release new episodes, they do it during these crucial intervals because they want to get the most viewers. The accompanying advertising campaigns are also created to draw viewers to these shows. The networks will make every effort to get you in front of the TV when a sweeps program is broadcast (when you will also see the adverts) rather than watching it on your DVR a few days later, even if Live + Same Day, Live + 3 Day, and Live + 7 Day viewership ratings are all crucial (when you can skip over the ads.) In order to entice viewers to watch live, sweeps episodes frequently include the conclusion of long-running narrative lines, multi-episode story arcs, significant events like weddings, the reappearance of a cast member who has left, or “stunt” casting of high-profile actors. The season finale of the majority of the series will air during the end of May sweeps.
A typical example of a sweeps period plot arc is the recent “Endgame” arc, which wrapped up Carter’s pursuit of the HR leaders. The circumstances leading up to the arc itself were depicted in the episodes before “Endgame,” and they came to a climax with Terney’s identification of Alonzo Quinn as the HR director in “The Perfect Mark,” which was televised during the first week of sweeps. After laying the foundation, CBS launched a comprehensive advertising campaign that focused on the arc, gave it a name, gave the impression that Fusco would die, and (hopefully) caught our attention. We spent hours discussing the tale on our forum after it concluded over the course of the following three weeks, exactly as CBS and Bad Robot had hoped. And hopefully, we also purchased the goods that were promoted during those pricey commercial breaks. For CBS, maximizing money through advertising is their goal.
The sweeps period’s final episode typically has an open conclusion that leaves us wondering “what happens next?” and entices us to watch more. Keep in mind “The Devil’s Share” and “Lethe,” which, when the new Samaritan storyline started, surprised us and then had us on the edge of our seats. Over the holiday break, we remained vigilant in anticipation of learning whether John would show up, what Decima was planning, and what Control would do to Finch and his college roommate. That’s what sweeps are all about: they keep us watching and keep us watching those ads. Do advertisements really matter that much? How soon after the Super Bowl, even if you didn’t watch the game, were you talking about the new advertisements? And perhaps more significantly, what goods did you purchase as a result?