Numbers 101: What’s a TV Rating and Who Is It Dating?

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Update: estimates for the 2012-13 season are available here.

Nielsen TV ratings are merely percentages of whatever is being measured.  Sometimes it gets confusing because so many different things are measured.

If you see a 3.4 national adults 18-49 rating, that doesn’t mean 3.4 million adults 18-49, it just means 3.4 percent of the 127,860,000 adults 18-49 in the United States (down from 131,490,000 last season) who live in a household with a television were watching based on the Nielsen estimates for the 2011-12 television season.

So a 3.4 adults 18-49 rating works out to be around 4.35 million adults 18-49.

Here are some of the ratings slices we frequently post data for and the total size of the populations being measured.

Numbers below were for the 2011-12 season: (estimates for the 2012-13 season are available here).

Nielsen Estimates* Population A 1.0 Rating Equals
Households 114.7 Million 1.147 Million
Adults 18-49 127.86 Million 1.279 Million
Women 18-49 64.02 Million 640,200
Men 18-49 63.84 Million 638,400
Adults 18-34 67.59 Million 675,900
Women 18-34 33.55 Million 335,500
Men 18-34 34.04 Million 340,400
Adults 25-54 120.68 Million 1.207 Million
Teens 12-17 24.04 Million 240,400
Kids 2-11 41.18 Million 411,800

I didn’t add it to the list above, but there are 289.70 million (down from 294.65 last season) potential “total viewers” in the U.S. age 2+ in households with TVs according to the estimates for the 2011-12 season.

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