2011-12 Season: FOX Continues to Lead 18-49 Ratings; CBS Still Tops Viewership Through Week 36 Ending May 27, 2012

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May 30th, 2012

For the week's top 25 broadcast TV show ratings click here.

After thirty-six weeks of the 2011-12 TV season (through 5/27/12), marking the official end of the season, FOX finished the season ahead of CBS in the advertiser prized adults 18-49 ratings for the season with a 3.2 average rating (down 9% from last season) to CBS's 2.9 rating (up 3% from last season). NBC remained in third place (2.5, up 7% from last year) ahead of ABC (2.4 rating, down 1% from last season) . Univision is in fifth with a 1.5 rating average (up 1% from last season ). CW is sixth with a 0.8 rating average (down 16% vs. last season).

Among  total viewers, CBS is has a substantial lead for the season  averaging 11.64 million viewers. FOX is second with 8.89m, followed by ABC with 8.37m, NBC with 7.34m, Univision with 3.64m and CW with 1.70 million.

Note that these season to date ratings averages are "Most Current" ratings which is a combination of Live + 7 Day DVR viewing for weeks more than 2 weeks ago and Live + Same Day DVR viewing for the immediately preceding 2 weeks.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2012 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

  • disney rocks

    What shocks me is that CW’s average is that high. Thought it would be .7. VD must really inflate their average.

  • Marcos

    CW average seems high because those averages are using L+7 ratings and their shows befenit a lot from DVR viewing. I have the same impression when it comes to NBC vs ABC.

  • cas127

    I’m puzzled.

    The combined 42 million average weekly prime time viewers (P2+, out of a population of about 310 million)is only about 13% of the population.

    And *that* is for the highest rated 36 weeks of the year (viewership falling off during summer).

    13% of the population really doesn’t seem to gibe with Nielsen’s claims that something like *65%* of the population is using television during primetime throughout the year.

    Sure there is cable and pay TV, but I don’t think they get cumulative HUT (households using television) percentages of 52% (or 4 times broadcast) which would be needed to get to 65%.

    What I *do* think is that Nielsen is perhaps severely goosing the numbers to boost the industry.

    How about putting up that cumulative ratings chart again?

    This is a major, major issue for the industry if Nielsen is cooking the (cumulative) books.

  • cas127

    Found a copy of the cumulative ratings chart:


    Chart seems to put cumulative broadcast HH (household) ratings at about 27% and cumulative cable HH ratings at 34%.

    Hmmm…so how to reconcile 13% P2+ with 27% HH annual cumulative broadcast ratings?

  • cas127

    I’ve thought about this some more.

    Basically, Nielsen seems to count a Household as “viewing” when even a single person in that Household is watching TV.

    Since there are about 115 million US Households but about 310 million *people*, that goes a long way towards explaining how a 13% P2+ (person) rating gets magically converted into a 27% Household rating.

    In brief, while about 1 in 4 “Households” are watching primetime broadcast TV at any given moment, I think only 1 to 1.5 *people* in those homes (out of 3 or 4) are actually watching.

    I think the distinction is majorly, majorly important in terms of how TV advertising gets sold.

    This is because I think very, very few media buyers realize the preceding when buying ads.

    They get sold the Household rating, and blindly assume it translates into an equivalent *people* rating – overestimating viewership by double or triple!

    This is a *huge*, *huge* amount of money that may be getting blown out there.

    Media buyers! 27% of households are *not* 84 million *people* (27% of 310 million).

    Only about *40 million* people are watching (13% of 310 million).

    And only *people* buy things – Houses don’t.

  • Holly


    You think that the people spending billions of dollars on advertising based on way more data than you have ever seen have never stopped to wonder where these numbers come from or what they mean? But you, random person on the internet, has figured out this huge mistake with the very limited data?

    By the way, advertising rates are usually based on some target demographic (18-49 for primetime broadcast), which are measured by person NOT household.

  • cas127


    You don’t think that a large number of media buyers are a pretty ill-taught lot, given a budget (simply keyed off of revenue top lines – why do think there is such a correlation between GDP cycles and ad spend?) and little education?

    How many college courses have you seen (or heard of) in media buying? Post-buy evaluation?

    Why do such enormous disparities persist between media (TV CPM’s ~ $10, Internet CPM ~ $.40, etc.)

    Why such persistent disparities *within* media (Broadcast CPM’s > Cable CPM’s) – yes, I know “reach” – which is just another way of saying that media buyers are tremendously lazy and rather make one buy instead of four – even though that simple act would save a tremendous amount of money.

    *For essentially the same damn product*

    (And yes, I saw the recent post about why CPM disparities persist between bcast and cable – but even *those* mostly reduce down to issues of ignorance and laziness among media buyers).

    So, rather than attack me as a nobody (with very limited data – why *is* the data so closely held other than to provide media sellers with the ability to BS buyers living in darkness) why don’t you address the substance of my post?

    And *I know* that *this site says* ads are “always” sold off of 18-49 but if that were “always” the case why does Nielsen even bother recording/publicizing the P2+ or Household numbers?

    What would be the point? “Everyone” only “uses” 18-49 (or 25-54, etc.).

    Of course, by putting out the Household numbers (and by inflating P+2 numbers through implication) Nielsen badly overstates the cultural impact of TV *today* (post-internet). This of course helps Nielsen’s most lucrative customers.

    Bottom line, I think the Household number in the aggregate use chart is *extremely* misleading as to the actual number of *people* who watch TV (over-implying it by a factor of 2) and that is a fact rarely appreciated.

    I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen that analytical observation made on this site.

    But, of course, it is *much* more important to discuss the 57,000th press release from Jersey Shore/WWE/etc.

    Or be the 494th comment on whether Community or Grimm is the better show.

    The site is called “TV by the Numbers” – more and more it is becoming “TV by the (PR) Flacks”.

    I mention this because, given the frequency of your posting – and the scorn of your response, I think you are affiliated with/work for the site.

    Look, feel free to pimp page views all you want, but when a reader rarely engages in a substantive issue about the TV industry, I think it is a bad call to simply sneer.

    There are plenty of other websites in this world.

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