Variety Calls Out "Viewership Shortfall," Apparently Forgets About Cable, Non-English Nets + Maybe, DVR Playback

Categories: Broadcast TV

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February 17th, 2012

Those reading our Thursday overnight ratings post know that broadcast TV adults 18-49 audiences declined for many popular primetime shows last night and that's got Variety a bit confused.

Fox wins Thursday amid odd aud totals
Overall smallscreen viewership continues to show shortfall

Problem with that headline is that the combined cable+broadcast adults 18-49 audience on Thursday night was up fractionally vs. last Thursday (37.8 rating vs. 37.5), and combined household ratings were identical (63.0 rating) to last Thursday (unfortunately I don't have total viewership averages). Apparently Variety chose to ignore cable and non-English viewing for the night.

Each of the broadcast networks remain bedeviled by an overall drop in TV viewing that has occurred most of the week, raising questions about whether something might be going wrong with the Nielsen numbers, but ongoing trends remained much the same.

Variety's claims of bedevilment notwithstanding, I'm an Occam's razor guy myself.

Most likely reasons for the English broadcast ratings declines last night?

1. More people watching cable. More than 50% of the primetime audience watches cable every night, just a small shift  can have a noticeable impact on broadcast.
2. Lots more people watching Univision's Premio Lo Nuestro. Univision averaged a 2.2 adults 18-49 rating last night, vs. a 1.4 rating last week.
3. Update: Latest chatter centers around the possibility that prior day DVR playback has been unusually high this week (which would account for the overall averages being high, but individual same night shows being low). Lots of chatter about playback of Sunday's shows (including the Grammys) overruning into this week, but no numbers I've seen to back it up yet.

Mysterious conspiracies theories are always fun, and very, very occasionally true, but that's not the way to bet.

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