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.

  • pete5125

    @feedback have you ever asked around the next day to see what people are watching generally if nielson says it is a hit then tons of people are watching, Statistics is a math it is based on the national feed, if you look back on this site you can see how fringe rated per state, so you may be in a state it does better in, but they do a good job and constantly find ways to make better more accurate results

  • Ultima

    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.

    We don’t need to know anything, we should be thankful for the information we get for free. The ratings information that Nielsen provides to paying customers is significantly more detailed and accurate that what we see.

    By the way, you can get detailed ratings for the top 25 shows from this site, at least (e.g. Big Bang Theory had a 4.738 last week).

  • bluejays

    @Holly – ”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.”

    If that’s true it explains a slightly odd thing I noticed with the ad rates for CBS dramas. There was hardly any difference between a show like NCIS LA or Criminal Minds (which get around a five or 6 demo points higher than many ten pm shows like CSI) and the ten pm dramas with lower demos like The Mentalist or CSI. Maybe this explains why?

  • bsp

    I tried to like UnF, but my DVR didn’t record correctly one week, so I missed it, but discovered that I didn’t actually MISS it at all. The gimmick (her perfect memory) got tiresome to me pretty quickly.

    But this post is about ratings, not UnF… As for the validity of Nielsen, I wonder how the company finds its sample households, and how large that sample is. I’m 52 and I’ve been a TV addict all of my life, and our household has only been contacted by Nielsen for TV ratings ONCE… when I was 10!

    We did get a call from Nielsen once recently about MOVIES — the caller asked if there was anyone in the house under 17. My teenage daughter was not home, so then she wanted someone under 25… no, I answered… then she asked for a female of any age… no… only THEN did she inquire about MY opinion! I think Nielsen values my media opinions just as much as my teenager does!

  • Lord Seth

    @ 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.

    I’m not sure if that would really make that much of a difference, but the fact is, I assume that information is available to their paying customers. Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean they don’t.

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

    I’m not sure what they’ve stated themselves, but based on some margin of error calculators available online, it looks like the margin of error (population of 300,000,000 with a sample size of 50,000) is 0.4%.

    @ Feedback

    @danielcw, The expected margin of error is huge.

    0.4% 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.

    The average number of person per home is, I assume, over 2, so it’s more like 50,000 people (that’s how I got the number above). So it’s more than 0.01%.

    You’ll find many articles about how Nielsen is a bull•••t untrustworthy system,

    Which means…what? You’ll find many articles arguing anything.

    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.

    That is indeed possible. But it is not likely.

    By the way, just a note: If you need some proof that random sampling is pretty accurate, election polls have been pretty good in predicting election results, and they have a lower representation (both percentage-wise and total numbers wise) of the voting public than Nielsen has of the TV watching public.

  • Danielle

    Unforgettable has potential to grow in a second season, perhaps on a different night.

    The writing got better throughout the season, and the team of characters developed a nice chemistry by the later episodes (particularly with the addition of Jane Curtin. Shows like NCIS and Person of Interest took a while to hit stride on CBS.

    Additionally, I’ve heard poor reviews of CBS’ new shows being tested. They would be better off keeping a currently solid and still promising Unforgettable.

  • Darrick

    @ Danielle

  • WKD2

    Unforgetable is good and it’s Tops in it’s time period, so i don’t see why it’s going to be cancelled. I wish one of the other networks, be it cable or broadcast, would pick it up.

  • danielcw

    To Feedback, Ultima and Lord Seth:
    Thanks for the replies, but I was merely trying to make a joke and slightly insult the people who blame Nielsen for everything at the same time.

    My last question, about the margin of error was sincere though. So thanks again to Lord Seth for the “0.4%”. May I ask where you got that number from?

  • jerryt

    If they renew Unforgettable they should change Poppies wardrobe from the
    teen sexpot to something that says I’m an adult cop not in high school.

  • Dianne

    I love unforgettable! I
    hate that its getting canceled.i really like it!

  • Denise Boyette

    I am shocked that such a fun show like Unforgettable would be cancelled! My daughter and I both look forward to watching each episode. It always has great stories and the cast is wonderful! They all mesh! Reality shows and some extremely silly are kept….such a sad statement. Please reconsider!!

  • Bill

    Unforgettable, and A Gifted Man are two of the hottest new shows on air, hope they will be renewed.

  • Bill

    Renew Ungorgettable. All the actors are superb, except for head cop, lieutenant, ex-boyfriend,

  • brooke_g

    I really got into this show, but since I watch my tv online at various unscrupulous websites because I don’t have DVR and I can never remember to tune in at a specific time, my opinion doesn’t count. I wish there was a better way for networks to determine which shows aren’t being watched.

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