3 New Ways the TV Networks Are Looking at Ratings... But Do They Matter?

I don't know about you guys, but it sure seems like there's a lot of information about TV viewership trends being thrown at us this season. Let me put on my grandpa outfit for a second and note that back in my day (like 2004), all we had to determine what shows were popular were the Nielsen overnights. For the last few years, Nielsen has given us three-day and seven-day DVR ratings for most shows, which has made the ratings picture a little clearer. But this year all hell has broken loose. If you follow any news source that covers TV industry news, you've probably noticed an increased amount of discussion about data points that were previously less important: 30-day viewership numbers, streaming and on-demand viewership, and pesky Twitter ratings. 

If it seems like there's a lot of data out there right now and you're unsure about what's valuable and what's not as far as a show getting canceled or renewed, don't fret. You are not alone. We barely understand this stuff, too. But we wanted to provide a streamlined guide for some of the newer measurements that are being more regularly reported on this season and make note of why you're seeing them. This is what we know—or at least what we think we know.


30-DAY RATINGS

What they are: As the name suggests, the 30-day ratings cover a period of up to 30 days past the initial live airing. Nielsen regularly reports on Live+3 and Live+7 ratings to give us an idea of what's being watched in the first few days or week after the live viewing; the big difference between the 30-day and the +3 or +7 numbers is obviously the time difference. However, what's important to note is that the 30-day ratings don't actually measure DVR viewership between days 8 and 30 of a given 30-day period. Meaning that even if you're a Nielsen home, if you're way behind on The Blacklist and plan to watch Episode 6 tonight, it doesn't count in the 30-day ratings even though it aired within the last month. Currently, Nielsen only measures DVR viewing through the first seven days after the live episode—so what do the 30-day ratings actually measure? Non-DVR watching like any encore presentations and various multiplatform outlets, like Hulu, network sites, and more. Thus, 30-day ratings are a simple formula: Live viewership plus +7 viewership + encore viewership + multiplatform viewership.

Where you'll see them: It's important to know that the networks are the ones putting these 30-day ratings reports together, not Nielsen. They're using the Nielsen-provided data and their own internal data about multiplatform or encores, which could, in theory, be manipulated in a 100 different ways. Some of the networks even tabulate their 30-day ratings differently, so there's no consistent way to make one-to-one comparisons. As a result, you're going to see them in snazzy, upliftingly worded press releases like this and this

How much they matter: All of these things are in the eye of the beholder, but 30-day ratings only matter as much an individual network wants to make them matter. Fox and CBS seem to be the most invested in putting out press releases about some of their more low-rated shows doing better once 30-day figures are taken into account, but they're each using different methods to tabulate the ratings—whatever they need to do to make shows like Hostages or Brooklyn Nine-Nine seem more successful. The numbers are certainly interesting to see, but that doesn't mean the important people in the industry care. And by "important people" I unfortunately mean "advertisers." Advertisers aren't paying for spots between act breaks on episodes that are watched a month later, which is why Nielsen doesn't tabulate that data to begin with. 


MULTIPLATFORM RATINGS

What they are: "Multiplatform" is a sort of catchall term for the number of different, LEGAL ways that we watch television today, including on-demand viewing and web-streaming. This is the kind of data that the networks have typically kept private, or at least it hasn't been as widely reported on as the Nielsen-approved viewership numbers. As I said above, the different networks are tabulating this stuff differently, and it's not always clear exactly what online platforms count. Are the networks with stuff on Hulu including both that and their official website players? What about the networks that have official app video players? Shockingly, it's confusing.

Where you'll see them: In the same kinds of places where you'll see the 30-day ratings: Network press releases. One of the more complicated things about multiplatform ratings is that some networks are tabulating and promoting them after just a few days, while others are waiting until that nice, round 30-day mark to make them public. Take a look at this one for Scandal's Season 3 premiere, an announcement that was dispatched by ABC, and you'll see what I'm talking about. It mentions a few specifics (streaming data comes from the official network player and Hulu), but this info is only covers the episode's first five days. Considering the fact that Scandal is only available on Hulu Plus within the first-five-days window, we can imagine that between days six and 30, the viewership for the premiere went up quite a bit.

How much they matter: Somewhat? I swear I'm not grasping at straws here. The difference in approach between ABC's release for Scandal and what CBS and Fox has put out there for its various programs tells us that the networks are interested in different things and this data can be used to support multiple goals. If you have a show that does gangbusters in the traditional Nielsen ways, multiplatform data can help make that first-week figure look even bigger. If you have a show that doesn't do very well with live viewers, or even with the +3 data, then waiting until the 30-day mark allows you to point to the fact that people are still watching, just in different ways and at different speeds. Advertisers might be more interested in online streaming data because they pay to put ads there, as they do on some on-demand services as well. But do they care about online streaming that comes 27 days after the live episode? I'm not so sure. 


TWITTER RATINGS

What they are: Perhaps the most confusing of the three. Twitter ratings are tabulated in concert with Nielsen, in hopes of measuring not just the number of tweets about a given show (though those are tracked as well), but the reach of those tweets and activity. Meaning, these ratings try to account for how many 'unique' people see tweets about shows on any given night or in any given week. Nielsen and Twitter also measure the number of unique authors composing those tweets. They really like the word unique, apparently. Unsurprisingly, the most-tweeted-about shows are not always the most-watched shows. 

Where you'll see them: Well, Twitter and Nielsen put them out every morning and provide updated weekly charts as well. I actually thought that we would see these discussed much more frequently this fall, but it seems like most of the chatter about this new type of data has to do with how flawed it is.

How much they matter: Not much, probably, and there are a number of issues and reasons why. First is the fact that Twitter is supremely invested in making these data points matter, because Twitter is of course a public company now and it wants TV-related tweets to be part of the 'value' of the company. Second is the fact that the data doesn't take into account quality or content of the tweets measured, it only notes that the tweets exist. So if I hashtag Dads when I tweet "#Dads makes me want to die," then it still counts. If we assume that this whole system is in place to convince advertisers that they shouldn't pull out of TV ads or that they should partner with Twitter—and it is—then advertisers probably do care whether the heavily tweeted-about show they're linking up with is actually liked by the people who are tweeting about it. Heck, a handful of dedicated fans could simply tweet until their fingers fell off and it would alter the data. 


These numbers are all interesting, especially if, like me, you're fascinated by how the industry deals with changing viewer habits and technology. But as of now, we probably shouldn't put too much stock into any of these newfangled numbers. It's cool to think that our Hulu streaming or our live-tweeting is going to impact a show's survival chances, and maybe one day it will. But that day won't come this season. This is a gradual process. Plus, the only reason we're seeing this data is that the networks want us to see it and—more importantly—to value it. Meaning, the networks are trying to convince skeptical advertisers that all this non-live viewing matters. One of the best ways to do that is to start flooding the market with press releases touting BIG INCREASES or HIGH IMPRESSION RATES ON TWITTER, with the hope that people like me will talk about it and you'll realize that your non-live activity makes a difference. Maybe that will pay off, but as of now, this is just data. It doesn't have much of an impact yet.


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Is there ever going to be a better television ratings system? Nielsen sucks!!
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Do they matter? No. I mean they are very informative. But, none of these ways tell TV networks how they can increase their revenue ($$).

I am not American. But, my understanding is that your television system is corporate based. So, "show me the money $$$" ... basically.

  1. The way I see it, Nielsen is really the "one-eyed king in the land of the blind" there is really no alternative. Many people mention Hulu, Amazon or whatever stream-service there is in America and even TWITTER in some cases as an alternative. But those are nothing in my opinion compared to exorbitant amount of money that broadcast television makes not only from its SameDay-Live TV shows but from Syndication(basically money for nothing)
A couple reasons why no-matter-what Nielsen will remain GOLD standard until an alt. is found:

    1. There is no "state-owned" television station.
    (TV networks have to raise funds for their service. )

    2. Refer to number 1.
    1. Since TV networks have to raise funds for the services that they provide to the public; the public is therefore the product and the advertisers their customers. Pretty crafty actually. Advertisers pay TV Networks (covering production costs etc) to advertise their product in the network TV show. The more successful that TV show the more likelihood that their product will be bought and the more money they and TV Networks will make. 1 word. CBS.
There is no online platform or Twitter that can offer networks or advertisers that kind of "reach 88 episodes" and you win an "all-you-can-eat-buffet" for as long as we can afford to pay you for these re-runs. Online re-runs = NO MONEY = TV Network cannot fund itself. Needs Nielsen.

Broadcast television makes more money than Cable television but Cable has more success with shows. Fan-Love and engagement is great. But, if you're a self-funding broadcast network and dependent on external revenue; you can't really cash that in the bank.

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Thanks for the informative article Cory, the only thing I'd like to add is that while, yes, advertising and advertisers are the major reason we're seeing an increase in networks trying to promote these different numbers, but I also think they are being used by the networks as a legitimate tool to directly interact with audience viewing habits in order to cater towards a new generation of television viewing.

While Twitter ratings may be the most unreliable of the three (you can't even tell who's watched an episode) is provides fascinating insight into what people are talking about, good, bad or otherwise and I think we'll see the networks continue to focus on this a bit more because I think they really want to be able to create new content, and improve what they've got for the television viewers that are and do talk about television online. it's not purely a money-grubbing scheme, but an attempt to form new and creative ideas about where the industry is heading and what they can do, or use, to be at the forefront of the television industry when the massive change hits (or better yet, be that change).

30-Day ratings really seem pointless to me, but I definitely understand the analysis of multiplatform viewing, seeing as it highlights just how people are watching television nowadays. If only someone would start collecting data on illegal downloading, it would be interesting to see what shows top that.
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Where I live, all television stations are funded by television licenses. - http://bit.ly/1K4RTJ
This "rating" stuff ... really is a non issue because (we have no "ratings") all shows are measured by viewership.
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Dvr and streaming are going to come into play almost as much as live when it comes to ratings. I have worked the late shift for years, and most of the stuff I watch is from the dvr. I pick up episodes from Amazon if I forget to record. And this is becoming the norm.
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Poll
Just curious. :)
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I chose "other" ways of streaming (free streaming and not via HULU)....

We often have the tv on in the background (don't watch shows on tvs) but pretty much watch everything online.
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As do I. I very rarely watch television nowadays. Here in Australian by the time we get some American series 6 months have past (the third season of Revenge hasn't premiered here yet), and obviously this means we don't have access to online streaming capabailities either, otherwise I'd do that for free or possibly even subscribe. Therefore I resort to "other" ways of watching.
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I just realized: I should have changed the "online web streaming" option, and separated Hulu from Amazon and iTunes. They operate on different principles - Amazon and iTunes are more like DVDs - you pay for the episode or for the whole season, and you don't get commercials. Hulu, OTOH, is more like TV - you don't pay for the episode/season (although if you do Hulu+, you do pay a subscription fee), but you do get commercials.

So if you picked that option, please reply and say which it is. :) Thanks!

And, of course, if you picked "Other," please reply as well.

(And for my part, I picked "Online Streaming" and was referring to Hulu, which is how I watch almost all of my TV. Unless it's on CBS. Or it's Supernatural or GOT, both of which I get on DVD when it comes out. I buy GOT, and borrow Supernatural from the library.)
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Okay, replying as requested (even if it's been two years...) I watch some shows on Hulu but my favorite shows I actually buy on iTunes. But as for watching Live, I don't even have TV like that anymore. I just plug my laptop into my 1080i HD TV :D
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I actually do both - if the episode/show that I want to watch is available on Hulu, then I'll do Hulu. But some shows aren't available there, so in that case, I'll purchase the episode from Amazon.

Both of those options come after DVR and On Demand though. Buying the episode on Amazon is a last resort.
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In Canada we don't have Hulu so the only way to watch it non-live is to DVR it or watch it on the network websites, which can be buggy. Although I'm not sure how our Canadian networks tabulate ratings, since they don't technically have a say when it comes to cancelling American shows, they might count views on the network websites for more.

I wonder if American networks take Canadian views into account. Since we're right next door and a lot of products available in America are also available here, shouldn't our views count for almost as much?
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I can tell you this for fact THEY DO NOT take Canadian ratings into account. Canadians don't see American adverts so therefore their can't be used.
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Does Canada have American networks like NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox or do the shows run on Canadian networks? If they run on Canadian networks there is probably a separate rating system they use to determine if they will get enough advertising money to carry the show.

Non US shows usually run on American partner networks like BBC America.
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We have the american networks, but if a show was picked up by a canadian network, we get the canadian signal even if we are watching the american channel . That way the canadian network gets the ad money (and the ratings) whether we watch them or the american channel.

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It's kind of weird though since our networks aren't just Canadian versions of the American ones. For example, Glee and Almost Human both air on Fox but they're on two different channels in Canada (Global and CTV, respectively). Also the Vampire Diaries is on CTV2 but its spin-off, The Originals is on another network.
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I have a Sony VCR that is built like a tank and working for years that I still use, does that count?

Does Twitter take into account, or even know, if someone is actually watching a show at the same time they are tweeting, or is it just about the fan base talking about it, god or bad, that matters?

How many homes own or rent a DVR? Not everyone has one or can afford one either way. I imagine there are not as many as TVs in households. How much does that inequality matter? Would it not be better to have DVR saturation like TV sets to better account for viewership? As it is now, aren't DVR ratings a little biased?

How many of those Live+ viewers are unique? If you watch a show live then again later in the week or month, does that matter? How many repeat viewings are there in the +3, or +7, or +30 day ratings that are no longer by unique viewers who wanted, or need, to see a show twice or more?

I get that there is a target demo, but older folks are likely not caring about and using new TV technology, or alternative venues, but there are likely many 18-49-year-olds who are not embracing it either, or are at least doing so slowly. More so, if those target demo people are living in a household run by someone older. Trying to get a fix on viewership based on these various new forms of viewing seems a bit too up in the air at this point because of something like this, as you are not getting a fully comprehensive representation of viewers. In general, it seems premature right now, but maybe they can take the time to learn and arrive at proper methods and/or a standard that can be agreed upon within the next couple of years, if this is not what they are doing already.

Not all networks offer their programs to viewers, by the way. CBS, unfortunately, now directs you elsewhere such as to Amazon, or iTunes, or Xfinity, which sucks because I've had On Demand fail me recently and it would have been nice to go to CBS as an alternative. Why would CBS push viewers away like this in offering another alternative except for the possibility of monetary payment from these other sites? But wouldn't continuing to make a show available from their site bring in more revenue with ad deals for these shows? It's kind of odd.

I honestly think networks, through greed and/or piracy paranoia, are making a huge mistake making shows available on their site, Hulu, On Demand, etc. right after they air. They should stick with the "live" airings. When a season is done, then make the episodes available over the summer, or whenever, by these other means. i would even wait for the next season's shows to begin before making the past season available and only for a limited time, then go to DVD, even syndication, if successful enough to do so. As far as repeats are concerned, do so the first week and maybe no more than twice. When a season is done, the network could rerun the series again then go the alternative route, as mentioned, or perhaps do both both consecutively.

I, for one, would happily watch shows as they air, and VCR thso on at the same time, if it were not for networks ruining their show with pop-up promotionals, "New Episode" tags in the corner, and/or 24-hour countdowns for some new show distracting and pushing you away from enjoying the show. Now, however, I also enjoy creating my own programming schedule to watch shows according to theme such as having a sci-fi night, a supernatural night, etc. Still, I would go back to the old ways, if it weren't for the problems noted.

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Yeah, there's no real way for them to know if you're watching while you're tweeting.
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They probably don't even care about whether its a repeat viewing or not because its the ads you're watching that they truly care about.
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I actually think that all of this is a step in the right direction.

A lot of people don't/can't watch the shows live so looking at up to 30 day numbers is actually a great idea. Streaming should definitely also be taken into consideration as well.
I know that social media platforms can actually make an impact. For example both Fringe and NIKITA got renewed (for a final season and proper conclusion) with the help of social media campaigns.
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Sadly a lot of these numbers still don't count bittorrent numbers either, which make viewership of shows like Game of Thrones and Supernatural significantly higher than they already are. You'd think by now they'd have a Nielson App that would let you daily, weekly, or monthly check off what shows you've viewed and already have your age and gender information stored for their records. Couldn't be much more unreliable than the thousands and thousands of seniors falling asleep while their TVs are still tuned in to NCIS or CSI.
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"Couldn't be much more unreliable than the thousands and thousands of seniors falling asleep while their TVs are still tuned in to NCIS or CSI."

OMG! Exactly. But I love you for this entrance above ^^^^ Truer words have never been spoken!
P.S. Great point about the downloads as well. For example, the Breaking Bad finale had something like 500'000 downloads in the first hour alone. That's a huge amount! They really should start looking at the bigger, global picture. Yes, I get that advertisers get nothin out of BitTorrent Downloads but the Nielsen system is an old way of looking at things and I'm glad that at least some further steps are being taken to count viewership numbers. It's still a long way to go but at least it's something.
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Most people I know wouldn't even mind watching the ads, they just don't like the idea of paying for an entire cable or satelite package just to receive one channel, that they often only watch 1-2 shows on, or simply because they don't want to pay for a DVR service either on their own or through those same companies. Commercials may be a bit of a nuisance, but a free, and harmless one that comes with the territory.
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I switched from TV to downloading since it cost approx. $125/mo for the TV package (without movie channels like HBO, etc.) *and* I still have to watch the commercials. IMO it just got out of hand.

10 years ago I paid approx. $50/month and that *included* HBO, Showtime and Cinemax.

Last year I bought a file server and switched to downloading. It costs me approx. $30/month (everything included) and I get to watch the shows without commercials. Between the ISP and the networks I can't keep up with their greed.

I questioned my choice earlier this year and I looked into some streaming services but I said no to that: Netflix has mostly old TV shows. Amazon wants me to buy either a new TV or a new media player and they won't stream to any of my Android devices (only their Kindle stuff).

In order for me to stop downloading, they need to either have all the shows/movies available on a single streaming service (I'd buy new hardware for that) or each streaming service needs to support all the popular hardware platforms and media players. I'm not buying a device for each streaming service.
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The fact is, I'm pretty sure bittorrent viewing is still illegal, and doesn't involve purchases, or advertising. Therefore, it doesn't/shouldn't count towards viewership numbers.

The ultimate purpose of getting viewership numbers, is to determine the revenue of the show - or, more specifically, the potential revenue that advertisers can get from your show. Because they're the ones that pay for the show to get made. So if the advertisers can't get any revenue, then the viewership is effectively 0, which means the revenue is 0, regardless of how many people actually watch the show.
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Although in case of promotional considerations embedded in the actual episodes of a show, one could argue that the downloads do matter. The message then reaches even more people.
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This supports my argument about the unreliability of the ratings with the thousands falling asleep during Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune thus inadvertently boosting the numbers for shows like NCIS and CSI.
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@Sanity_Bleeds: Precisely. :) What counts as "viewership" is the DVD/Bluray sales. HBO views bittorrent as a means to an end, but it's still all about the revenue. You count as a "viewer" if, and only if, you contribute to the station's revenue in some way, shape, or form, by watching the show.

For any show:
  • If you watch the show live (which involves either paying for the station, or watching ads, or both), you should count as a viewer, because you count towards the show's or the station's revenue.
  • If you DVR the show (which involves at least fast-forwarding through the commercials and watching them quickly), then you should count as a viewer, because you count towards the show's or the station's revenue.
  • If you stream the show legally online, you should count as a viewer, because the station sold the show to the streaming service, which then makes its revenue through ads, which you watched. (at least, that's how I think it works).
  • If you buy, or even rent, the DVDs (whether this is preceded by bittorrent or not), or purchase seasons or individual episodes online from stores, you should count as a viewer, because you are directly paying the station for the show.
  • If you illegally download, without then buying the DVDs/Blurays, then you should not count as a viewer, because you are in no way helping them to pay for making the show.
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@Katherine_M - Tell that to the HBO execs who encourage users to pirate and download Game of Thrones, because it creates interest and ultimately boosts sells of DVDs and Blurays once the seasons end! HBO supports the iron price, official.
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MirelaPilipo: (sorry, your post doesn't have a reply button, so I had to go up a level) My point was, those people don't count. Nor should they. Because viewership numbers are not about the show; they're about the ads. If you don't watch the ads or purchase the show (Amazon, iTunes, etc.), then you don't count as a viewer, because the numbers are supposed to reflect the approx. number of people who see (or at least ff through) the ads.

Sorry, that's just the way it works. That's the downside to downloading (or at least, downloading but not from Amazon or iTunes... which really should count in a totally separate category, since when somebody purchases a show, it directly affects the show's revenue). If you download illegally and don't watch ads, you just don't count as a viewer, as far as the decision-makers are concerned.
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Exactly right. Old and unreliable. American TV shows are mass-consumed on a global scale and the most popular and easiest way of watching these shows nowadays is through downloads (they come out as soon as the show airs). Simply because most countries are always behind or don't even buy certain US shows. For example, Australia just started airing the final season of Fringe about 3 weeks ago and shows like Revolution are still in the early stages of their first season.
I know people who live in the US but still download their favourite shows just so they don't have to sit through the adds. Sorry advertisers but it's so true.
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Advertisers aren't looking at Twitter ratings. But I think they are important for networks and show creators because fans are promoting shows at no cost to them. Why pay for ads if fans are happy to live tweet & post promotional material all week?

#DiscoverHaven trended in the number 1 spot in the US and other places during the live broadcast. That's impressive for a show with mediocre ratings. But fans believe SyFy will notice. The actors and writers encouraged fans to live tweet to help the show get renewed.

Will it work? It won't be the deciding factor. Live viewing ratings matter the most. But a strong social media presence grows the fan base for international viewers, Netflix, DVD sales, iTunes etc

Networks, show creators, and actors are out of touch and losing out if they ignore social media.
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Thanks, Cory.

The main takeaway I got from this article is that the Nielsen system is becoming even more antiquated than it already was. I mean, look no further than the coveted 18-49 demographic, which evidently runs the television advertising business with an iron fist. Have the advertisers and network executives never heard of the phrase "ramen budget"? It's what a lot of college/university students (including myself) have to abide by because we don't have unlimited finances, nor live on a pension as the elderly and retired do.
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I no longer watch TV; I just read the TV.com wrap ups.
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This is really the only way to experience television.
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For some shows it really is the only way to experience them.
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I have the answer.

Don't watch network television.
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"Heck, a handful of dedicated fans could simply tweet until their fingers fell off and it would alter the data."

This is the reason that unique authors is significant.
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This is why my 100,000 mirror Firefly fan accounts will bring the show back!!!
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These new rating gauges are interesting, but like you and others have said, they aren't very useful at this stage in the game. No advertiser in their right mind is going to care about 30 day ratings.

The multiplatform ratings could be interesting but there needs to be more transparency about how they're calculated and it needs to be the same across the board. Even then, there's no guarantee how much weight it will hold w/ advertisers, but I think this is the most realistic one to continue in the future.

Part of the problem with the Twitter ratings has to do with the demographics we're looking at. Yes, plenty of people of all ages have Twitter accounts but the ones most likely to tweet while watching a show are people of a younger demographic so it could maybe give you interesting date for the 18-34 demo but not the full 18-49. And like you said, if we're JUST looking at tweets not at the content it's enhernetly flawed. I mean look how many people tweeted about Sharknado. I admittedly was one of them, but it was in a WTF capacity not a HOLY CRAP THIS IS AMAZING capacity.
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I never help ratings, I dvr everything and than it can be sometimes 1 episode or like so far, i have like 6 Haven eps and 4 Grimm eps waiting to be seen and they will be watched, just some shows i like watching multiple episodes in one sitting.

I don't use twitter, but anything that can make Sharknado into getting a sequel, I cannot truly trust. LOL
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I like binge-watching some of my favorite shows as well. But, for some shows like Haven (which is one of my favorites, especially a favorite to binge-watch) I always watch live or within the 3-day window because it's on the fence for renewal. I'll save up and binge watch shows I know won't get cancelled - or at least am fairly confident won't.
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Great article! Typical Cory. :) So, it might help our favorite, low-rated shows if we watch them live and again on Hulu, On Demand, on the network website, etc., right?
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Thanks!
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It will only help if you watch it live and you also have a Nielsen box. Since I don't and most of the time if I don't see something live I watch it on Hulu, the multiplatform ratings sound encouraging.
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#Dads makes me want to die - LOL
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Great article, very interesting!
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Multiplatform ratings should definitely be included. With On-Demand, Hulu and download places like Amazon and Vudu television is changing, live viewership is a thing of the past. And as I've often said here, the Nielsen ratings are an antiquated way of gauging a tv series' popularity.

I have so many favorite shows on at the same time that I watch one live and buy the others the next day on Amazon and watch on Roku. Today for example I'll watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (airs at 8) and buy NCIS to watch tomorrow (if it was On tonight...which it isn't).
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Until ad-based "multiplatform" content starts returning real profits and driving shows, that ratings information is essentially useless. Sure, it keeps the show's brand alive, but that information is only tangentially useful to the networks, and utterly useless to the broadcast advertisers.

The 30-day tracking is even sadder, there's a reason reruns already have Nielsen data on them, you can't roll it into a single viewing's data and pretend they're one in the same. Nobody who advertises on the first-run airing is going to give two squirts about what a rerun brings in because that's a separate airing with its own separate advertising. Plus, it serves to remind advertisers that your show is so dismal that it has to dig a month back to get numbers, it has to basically start below the bottom and dig upwards just to hope to see daylight in terms of viewership. "First we brand at nothing, then we keep a few eyeballs, then we show them your ads, that's the best our show can hope for" is not a good message.

Twitter data is the most useless of all, using it as true tracking data is a bad concept, it's saying "hey, maybe people are watching because they mentioned it" - it's like tracking Craigslist personals and assuming each one results in marriage.
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This is a very informative article. Thank you!
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Staff
Creative Accounting is what all this smells like. But if it keeps the networks from asking for more money from cable companies and thus customers, I am all for looking for ways to better track user viewership+engagement. As annoying as it is to see twitter hashtags on every episode of my favorite tv shows, its a good way to establish somewhat of a consensus.
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