When TV shows/channel say they had "X" amount of viewers, how do they know? Is there like a little tracking thing where they can tell if you are on a certain channel? Do you have to be on the channel a certain amount of time for it counts you as a viewer? Like if I was just flipping through channels would I count as a viewer for that show on every channel? Confused how this works? Let me give some useful information:
In the U.S., the term "TV ratings" immediately makes people think of "Nielsen" because Nielsen Media Research has become the de facto national measurement service for the television industry in the United States and Canada. Nielson measures the number of people watching television shows and makes its data available to the television and cable networks, advertisers and the media.
Nielsen uses a technique called statistical sampling to rate the shows -- the same technique that pollsters use to predict the outcome of elections. Nielsen creates a "sample audience" and then counts how many in that audience view each program. Nielsen then extrapolates from the sample and estimates the number of viewers in the entire population watching the show. That's a simple way of explaining what a complicated, extensive process is. Nielsen relies mainly on information collected from TV set meters that it installs, and then combines this information with huge databases of the programs that appear on each TV station and cable channel.
To find out who is watching TV and what they are watching, the company gets around 5,000 households to agree to be a part of the representative sample for the national ratings estimates. Nielsen's statistics show that 99 million households have TVs in the United States, so Nielsen's sample is not very large. The key, therefore, is to be sure the sample is representative. Then TVs, homes, programs, and people are measured in a variety of ways.
To find out what people are watching, meters installed in the selected sample of homes track when TV sets are on and what channels they are tuned to. A "black box," which is just a computer and modem, gathers and sends all this information to the company's central computer every night. Then by monitoring what is on TV at any given time, the company is able to keep track of how many people watch which program.
Small boxes, placed near the TV sets of those in the national sample, measure who is watching by giving each member of the household a button to turn on and off to show when he or she begins and ends viewing. This information is also collected each night.
The national TV ratings largely rely on these meters. To ensure reasonably accurate results, the company uses audits and quality checks and regularly compares the ratings it gets from different samples and measurement methods.
Participants in Nielsen's national sample are randomly selected. Every U.S. household with a TV theoretically has a chance to be a part of the sample. The sample is also compared to the general population, and at times Nielsen calls thousands of households to see if their TV sets are on and who is watching.
This research is worth billions of dollars. Advertisers pay to air their commercials on TV programs using rates that are based on Nielsen's data. Programmers also use Nielsen's data to decide which shows to keep and which to cancel. A show that has several million viewers may seem popular to us, but a network may need millions more watching that program to make it a financial success. That's why some shows with a loyal following still get canceled.
Nielsen Ratings are audience measurement systems developed by Nielsen Media Research to determine the audience size and composition of television programming. Nielsen Ratings are offered in over forty countries.
The system has been updated and modified extensively since it was developed in the early 1940s by Arthur Nielsen, and has since been the primary source of audience measurement information in the television industry around the world. Since television as a business makes money by selling audiences to advertisers, the Nielsen Television Ratings are the single most important element in determining advertising rates, schedules, and program content.
The company is part of the Nielsen Company, formerly known as VNU and owned by a consortium of private equity firms including Blackstone Group, KKR and Carlyle Group. Its production operations are located in its Brooker Creek Global Technology and Information Center in Oldsmar, Florida.
TV ratings FAQ
Why are TV ratings important?
TV ratings measure the popularity of a programme, in terms of the number and proportion of viewers. Ratings are crucial for the commercial broadcasters like ITV and Channel 4, who are able to charge more for advertisement slots during high-rated programmes. Depending on TV ratings, broadcasters may drop shows from their lineups, or switch them to different times where they have a better chance of being more popular (for example, a show on ITV may perform better in the 8pm slot rather than the 7.30pm slot, where it would face competition from EastEnders on the BBC).
Who measures TV ratings?
In the UK, TV ratings are measured by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), which bases its figures on a sample 5,100 households. The panel has been chosen to be as representative as possible, with varying geographic location, age, social class and gender.
What are overnights?
Overnights are ratings released the next day, which are based on data obtained from the panel overnight. These early estimates do not take into account video recordings, so official figures (normally released 1-2 weeks later) are often higher than the overnights.
What is an audience share?
The audience share measures the percentage of the current viewing audience who are watching the programme in question. Generally this figure will have more meaning than the total viewing figure. For example, 2 million viewers for a BBC One programme may not be too impressive in an 8pm timeslot (typically equating to a share of 10%), but the same number of viewers in a 1am timeslot would be considered more than respectable (equating roughly to a 60% share).
What are 'demos'?
Demos, short for demographics, give information about the type of people watching the show. Different demographics measure the number of people watching a given programme based on age, gender and other classes. These are usually much more relevant than the overall figures, as they allow advertisers to purchase airtime during targeted programmes. For example, a cleaning product firm is more likely to prefer to advertise during the daytime and between programmes with a high housewives share. Generally, the most sought-after demographic is young males, who tend to have a higher purchasing power.
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