The New New Ratings Heroes: Would Hiro Approve?

Categories: Thoughts,TV Ratings

Written By

September 25th, 2007

Hiro Nakamura

Note: If you bought Heroes in your TVBigShot fantasy league, it's looking like a better deal! 

Apparently there are some loopholes in the new Nielsen rules, and the peacock network is taking advantage of them with Heroes.  I don't want to be too harsh, because I mean, c'mon, if Bill Belichick can outright condone cheating and not get suspended for a single game, it's hard to find fault  with NBC for taking advantage of the rules without actually breaking any. It still kinda seems like cheating to me though.

Here's the simple explanation: NBC is re-running Monday's episode of Heroes this Saturday.  The numbers Heroes pulls on Saturday will be added into the numbers from this past Monday in the weekly totals.  Further, that hour from Saturday -- typically an hour where there aren't that many viewers -- will be eliminated from NBC's weekly averages.  The net result is a bigger number for Heroes and a better (at least very slightly) weekly average for NBC.

I'd tell you that I love the show Heroes, but that's not quite true.  I like the show a lot, but what I love is the character played by Masi Oka, Hiro Nakamura.  His character stands for good old fashioned values like honesty, and friendship and loyalty and integrity, and just being an all around good guy.  That's how Tim Kring wrote the character and Masi Oka pulls it off beautifully.  The maneuver by NBC is not exactly Hiro Nakamura-esque, not by a long shot.  I'm just saying.

Still, it's hard to find fault with NBC, especially as it's been pounded mercilessly (other than the Today Show which seems to be on 12 hours a day now anyway) in recent years.  They aren't breaking the rules, they are just taking advantage of them.  Who put the provision in there to do such a thing?  Nielsen.  I start thinking about why.  How does this happen and how could it be fixed?

The TV industry isn't filled with (m)any Hiro Nakamuras, that's for sure.  But I don't want to be too harsh on Nielsen, they have to please their biggest customers.   It's  becoming pretty obvious to me that more revenue comes into Nielsen from the TV networks than from the advertising community. 

The only way to truly fix this is for the very big advertising agencies to start paying as much to Nielsen as the very big networks do, and for the thousands of middle and small advertising agencies to start paying...something.  When both sides of the equation are bringing in equal revenue, the way the numbers get presented will seem more down the middle than what I perceive as a current Nielsen bias towards the networks. 

I predict one of two things will happen:

1. Some huge customer that pays Nielsen more than NBC will complain and the rule will get changed

or, and far more likely I think...

2. The rest of the broadcast networks will do the exact same thing.

This really isn't that big of a deal unless the advertising community is insanely stupid because it's not like the advertisers will pay more for spots on the Monday episode of Heroes based on the add-ins from Saturday.

Perhaps the rule was brilliant marketing by Nielsen though because it could be an effective approach for getting the advertising community to buy more of the research that breaks all the data out.

Mr. Gorman and I will be having the "to asterisk or not to asterisk" discussion for next week's Top Broadcast charts.  I favor having an asterisk.

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