Why We Use 'Viewers' in Our Rankings

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September 11th, 2007

A Note on Our Rankings

The detailed oriented reader may notice that although we use the numbers from Nielsen, we sometimes have different rankings. How can it be so?

Nielsen measures many things and there is information galore -- ratings, households, viewers. All data that we are glad to have our hands on. But it can get pretty confusing. Nielsen puts out it’s “Top Lists” rankings based on the total number of households that are tuned into programs. We don’t know if that’s some legacy, or whether they do that for some other reason. Either way, we’re very OK with Nielsen reporting whatever it wants to report in terms of the rankings.

Our goal here at TVbytheNumbers is to be consistent and to consistently make sense. We’re not trying to add to the confusion by ranking slightly differently. It’s just that we believe for just about anything, the measurement that matters most is how many people saw it.

Our logic, flawed though it may be, is that whether you’re an advertiser or just a couple of ratings obsessed fools like us, the number of eyes on your stuff is the most important metric.So we’re standardizing around viewers. Some shows have more viewers per household and may lag in the “household ranking” but be ahead in the “viewer ranking”.

This week for example, in the Cable top 20, ESPN’s primetime Labor Day Florida State vs. Clemson contest had more households tuned in, according to Nielsen, than MTV’s Video Music Awards did this past Sunday. But the VMAs drew ~400,000 more viewers than the football game, so we ranked the VMA’s higher based on overall viewership-- and not just because we feel badly that Britney was so awful!

In the Nielsen rankings you may see widely available, you might notice the Florida State vs. Clemson game ranked ahead of the Video Music Awards. If so, it’s because the shows are ranked by households, not viewers.

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