We Might Believe What CBS's Kelly Kahl Says About The Daily Ratings...If CBS Renews 'Unforgettable'

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

May 10th, 2012

In an LA Times story about how the networks are desperate for young viewers  CBS's head of scheduling Kelly Kahl said: "You can't read the next day's [ratings] numbers and take a real meaningful read from them anymore."

We have no axe to grind with Mr. Kahl. All he's ever done is entertain us on Twitter and schedule the only network that didn't have the Super Bowl with 18-49 ratings growth this season. Sure, technically that growth is a PR bonus born of statistics since through last Sunday, CBS's average number of 18-49 viewers in primetime was exactly the same as last yea. But because the Nielsen universe estimate for the number of TV viewing adults 18-49 shrank this season vs. last, CBS has eked out a small gain in terms of the rating.

Like any reasonable person trying to gauge the popularity of the show, I too agree that the daily ratings aren't very meaningful in gauging total popularity. But advertisers don't care about total popularity, they care how many people saw the commercials. From what we can tell, the daily program ratings usually track pretty closely, relatively speaking, with what advertisers actually care about.

So the question is "meaningful to what?"  If it's to the total popularity of the show, nope, those numbers aren't very meaningful.  But the daily ratings have consistently been useful to figuring our what a network's best and worst shows are and what shows will be renewed and canceled. That usefulness hardly seems coincidental so from that perspective useful = meaningful.

Do Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory add truckloads of viewers on DVR past the day they air? Of course they do. But we don't need to see those numbers to know they're their networks highest rated shows. Whether it's the next day or two to three weeks later when the Live+7 ratings come out, the result, relatively, is the same. Did CBS wait for the Live+7 numbers on How To Be a Gentleman came out before it canceled the show? Nope.

Unforgettable's Live+SD ratings rank it 59th  out of 154 English language primetime  broadcast shows this season. With the extra six days of DVR viewing, it rises to tied for 57th. But if CBS renews Unforgettable we might have to concede something mattered more than the daily ratings --  even if it wasn't the DVR ratings.

Based on the daily ratings, we're very clearly not expecting Unforgettable to be renewed.

  • jordan

    I heard NBC is probably going to renew Harry’s Law. If they do that, then it’s getting renewed because of total viewers and not the demo. It’s also NBC and they are pathetic.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    I removed a sarcastic parenthetical line in the first sentence right after: “about how the networks are desperate for young viewers” that said “(perhaps that’s why there’s some positive buzz about Harry’s Law being renewed.)”

  • DenverDean

    UnF should’ve been swapped with H50 at mid-season. H50 certainly is a better fit coming out of NCIS:LA and UnF probably would have done well on Monday. It’s a shame that CBS is tossing series that are doing OK with ratings that are far better than its competitors. The list is long. CBS should consider holding at least one or two series as replacements if something flops or to reduce repeats.

  • ToXiX

    Unforgettable looks to be cancelled but isn’t a definite goner in my opinion.

    Well probably find out tomorrow, either way I don’t watch the show.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Given that Kahl quote, the question that should have been asked is “What decision have you made in recent years that could not have been anticipated based on those next day ratings, but only makes sense based on the 7 day DVR numbers?”

  • Doug

    That article is basically a rehash of everything that these types of articles have been saying for 15 years (minus the DVR stuff of course). The networks are dying, etc… True, and there’s really nothing they can do to stem the tide. Eventually, the ratings will bottom out, but the question is where. I would guess that the CW may see increases next year based on the fact that they can’t do much worse (especially with The LA Complex pulling a 0.2 – how much lower can it go?), and NBC might be in a similar boat, especially on a night like Wednesday. The problem is twofold: the new “hits” have only mediocre ratings compared to what would have been a hit only 3 or 4 years ago, and the top rated shows are seeing their numbers slashed. But the bottom is there, somewhere.

  • Fake Me Out

    I do watch Unforgettable, it’s a nice little time waster. If it comes back, great, if not, meh … I said I watch not that my life is tied to it’s rises and falls … but I do know Poppy will be at the table dinning on bear … and that’s a good thing … I like me my reds.


    Help save Endgame and watch Craig Ferguson in Scotland next week

  • poshreany

    are you’s saying that unforgettable has a chance of being renewed or has no chance…

  • ToXiX


    They’re basically saying if CBS renews Unforgettable, they will believe what Kelly Kahl says about the daily ratings.

  • danielcw

    The Nielsen system has to be improved.
    Not because it is out of touch, but because we may need to know the second digit after the dot.

    How precise does Nielsen claim to be, by the way? What is the expected margin of error?

  • J

    Unforgettable is the complete opposite of its name. Please get rid of this awful show..it makes The Defenders look great.

  • Feedback

    @danielcw, The expected margin of error is huge. They only measure about 25,000 homes to represent the whole US population. That’s less than .01% representation in the Nielsen system. You’ll find many articles about how Nielsen is a bull•••t untrustworthy system, but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t going anywhere.

    When you see a show get a 1.0 rating, it means they got 1% of all television viewers, or more specifically, 1% of Nielsen viewers. That means 250 Nielsen viewers watched the show and, statistically, Nielsen multiplied it by a huge number to make it seem like Fringe was watched by 1% of US television sets.

    But does that really represent Fringe’s viewership? For all we know, outside those 250 people, no one even watched the show, or maybe everyone did.

    If I were on the TVBytheNumbers staff, I’d point out exactly how many Nielsen viewers watched each show when I’m posting ratings reports. This would make clear how ridiculous a system Nielsen is.

  • Greg Chenoweth

    I still think “Unforgettable” will be renewed based on the dailies and the age of some of its dramas like CSI:NY and CSI:Miami. I only watched the pilot and no other episode so I am not a diehard fan. I am thinking that CBS will put it on at either 8 or 9 p.m. on Fridays. The show is already developed so there will not be any startup production costs like with a new show. If it fizzles, then CBS can throw up their hands and say they tried. I believe it will only stay on the schedule, though, as a Friday night show. The numbers don’t support it being on any other day of the week.

  • Bob

    Another show that gets 10 million viewers that will be ignored. I am not one of them. I tried watching the premier and was bored. Although I love Poppy, the show was awful IMHO. CBS should just tell the nielsen folks to f off and go by overall numbers. It kills me how these companies get so much power. Nielsen for television and equifax for credit….who made them boss. lol.

  • Anon

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it true that Nielsen doesn’t care at all about the audience for the shows; their interest lies in the audience for the ads.

  • Holly


    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it true that Nielsen doesn’t care at all about the audience for the shows; their interest lies in the audience for the ads.

    Really, Nielsen doesn’t particularly care about any specific part of the data, they just measure the audience. Nielsen’s customers>, (advertisers and networks) care about the audience for the ads.

  • Holly

    As far as we know, the daily ratings reflect reasonably well what will happen with the C3 ratings, which, of course, are the ratings that really matter for ad dollars. However, since we very rarely see the C3 numbers, they could differ more than we expect.

    If I recall correctly, the one time we saw some of the numbers this year, the 10 pm shows did relatively better (the C3 ratings were closer to the Live+SD as opposed to the earlier shows which dropped more). If that is a major trend instead of an anomaly, then a show with a 2.5 at 10 pm could actually be better rated than a show with a 2.8 at 9.

  • Daw Johnson

    I don’t understand the “Unforgettable” reference. As noted, “Unforgettable” places virtually the same in Live+SD as it does in +7. So what exactly is its renewal or lack of renewal proving as it relates to daily ratings vs. big picture?

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @Daw: perhaps a little creative license on my part to make a point. A renewal of Unforgettable(maybe I should’ve used NYC 22?) would imply that the daily ratings really don’t matter much. It would also imply that the Live+7 numbers don’t matter much either, but in that instance the daily numbers matter as much as the +7, which was the point I was trying to make.

  • Kathy

    Oh that would make me so happy if it was renewed. I am still sad about Alcatraz and The Finder, so some good news would be great. Of course, I did get Person of Interest and Grimm, so I guess I should be thankful. :)

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