Deceiving: Show Ratings That Look Pretty Much the Same Week to Week

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV

Written By

November 14th, 2010

In a Variety article on the ratings success of the sophomore season of The Middle, there was a data nugget I was very interested in:

"Only around 34% of the audience early this season was watching consistently week to week, but now that's up to 45%," [Larry Hyams, VP of audience analysis at ABC] says. "That's how shows become bigger, because they have more regular viewers."

Below are the numbers for The Middle so far this season (all numbers live plus same day DVR viewing, and The Middle didn't air on 11/10 due to the CMA Awards):

Date 18-49 Rating 18-49 Viewers (000) Total Viewers (000)
22-Sep 2.7 3526 8796
29-Sep 2.5 3243 8351
6-Oct 2.5 3267 8029
13-Oct 2.5 3253 7977
20-Oct 2.6 3451 8541
27-Oct 2.9 3825 9544
3-Nov 2.9 3785 9419

---

Even though the numbers for the October 27 and November 3 episode are nearly identical, in those weeks less than half of the audience was made up of people who watched the show every week.

I’d always assumed that shows needed to cast wide nets and that because of the way people watch TV it wasn’t safe to assume that a show’s ratings were composed mostly of the same people each week.  But this is the first data I remember seeing that supports the assumption.   While consistent week-to-week viewers are obviously critical for a show’s success, even after The Middle improved, still less than half of its viewers were made up of people who watched every week.

I will try to tack down some more of those numbers.  I suspect that they play a much bigger role in a show’s week to week ratings fluctuation than things like FX going dark on Dish Network.

Though the data on consistent week-to-week viewers was the most interesting to me, there were a couple of other interesting data points in the Variety article.

 
© 2014 Tribune Digital Ventures