What's a TV Rating and Who Is It Dating? 2012-13 Edition

Categories: 1-Featured,Help,TV Ratings Reference

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September 2nd, 2012

These are  Nielsen US TV universe estimates for the 2012-13 season which are being used effective August 27, 2012.

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 126,540,000 adults 18-49 in the United States (down from 127,860,000 last season) who live in a household with a television were watching based on the Nielsen estimates for the 2012-13 television season.

So a 3.4 adults 18-49 rating works out to be around 4.3 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.

Nielsen Estimates 2012-13 Popluation (Millions) A 1.0 Rating Equals
Households 114.20 1.142 Million
People 2+ 289.42 2.894 Million
Adults 18-49 126.54 1.265 Million
Women 18-49 63.98 639,800
Men 18-49 62.56 625,600
Adults 18-34 67.66 676,600
Women 18-34 33.89 338,900
Men 18-34 33.77 337,700
Adults 25-54 118.70 1.187 Million
Teens 12-17 24.02 240,200
Kids 2-11 39.61 396, 100

The 2012-13 estimates for households, P2+ and adults 18-49 were all down vs. the 2011-12 estimates which were 114.7 million, 289.7 million and 127.86 million respectively.

  • Bryan

    Hate to be the person to ask each year, but can you post the K6-11 total viewers numbers? I only ask because another site (Cynopsis Kids) posts K6-11 ratings often, but usually only demo numbers. Thanks! :)

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @Bryan: won’t be adding them to the table, but it’s 23.59 million.

  • iggy

    If I have a Nielsen box and I flip around during the 9 minutes of commercials during “30 Rock,” would my viewing count as 21 minutes or 0 minutes for “30 Rock”?

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    for 30 Rock’s program ratings (which is what we and everyone else regularly posts) you’d count for 21 minutes. For the commercial ratings which are rarely posted anywhere, theoretically you’d count as 0 minutes.

  • Andyº

    Thanks for the explanation Rob. I think I know why The CW is failing after all…

  • nano

    So does that mean that by the smallest margins it will be easier to reach … let’s say a 3.0 than last year?

  • Justin121

    My table:

    A 1.0 rating: Poor

    A 2.0 rating: Good

    A 3.0 rating: Excellent

    A 4.0 (and higher) rating: Great

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Justin121: That may be a good way to look at it, but what really counts is how well the show is doing vs all the other shows on the network and how well the network is doing.

    If you’re the CW, a 1.0 is bloody great! And a 2.0 is almost unattainable! :-)

  • Jon23812

    @Justin and Richard, I don’t think it matters on how high the ratings are. I think it only matters if it’s high enough to make a profit.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @Jon23812 your reasoning is fairly common among commenters, but it’s still wrong. It *is* relative ratings for a particular network that matter and those almost always do a better job of illustrating opportunity cost. Focusing on whether a show is profitable or not is not enough because it ignores the opportunity cost issue, i.e., the opportunity to air something that is very profitable vs. barely profitable.

    If scripted original programming were scheduled 24×7 it would be different because there would be many more opportunities. But given when and how people watch TV there simply aren’t enough opportunities to ignore opportunity cost.

  • Jon23812

    @Robert, But would a network wait until it has enough episodes for syndication before replacing it, or cancel a show that is also on a desired timeslot that is less profitable.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @Jon: there are several factors and proximity to syndication/syndication revenue is definitely one of them. Those factors can be (and usually are) factored in to renewal prognostications. But just assuming “if it doesn’t lose money it won’t be canceled” is a bad rule of thumb.

    sadly, real profitability data is pretty hard to come by. fortunately, relative ratings aren’t hard to come by…

  • Leondre

    Why don’t you post the 18-34 numbers anymore?

  • Nick


    Why don’t you post the 18-34 numbers anymore?

    TvbytheNumbers has never posted A18-34 numbers unless it was in a press release.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “TvbytheNumbers has never posted A18-34 numbers unless it was in a press release.”

    Not entirely correct. We used to post individual show 18-34 ratings in our overnight ratings posts, but the effort wasn’t worth it.

  • Nick

    My bad.

  • Dean_W

    My table:
    – A 1.0 is very low for CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX but good for the CW.
    – A 2.0 is often fatal on CBS and ABC but not on FOX (Bones, Touch…) or NBC (SVU, Smash, Grimm…). The CW will never hit a 2.0 again.
    – A 3.0 is good on every network (Personnaly I’ve never seen a show with a 3.0 being canceled).
    – A 4.0 and more means several years Renewal (How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, The Big Bang Theory…)

  • Nick

    @Dean W

    ¡Rob! was canceled with a 3.3 average. So a 3 is good on evey network with the exception of CBS comedies where it is mediocre.

  • Justin121

    Richard Steven Hack:

    As of May 2012, that’s how well the Nets and their individual shows are doing.

    Generally speaking, CBS, ABC, and FOX, are satisfied with a 2.0 rating, NBC with a 1.5 rating.

    The CW is not one of the Big 4. I purposefully ignored its criterion (a 0.5, if anyone is interested, is the relevant cutoff point for the CW).

    NBC is slipping away from the rest of the Big 4, and CBS is a few notches above, but the table still holds.

  • Ram510

    So now that there’s less people in the A18-49 group does that mean so-so ratings (like a 1.8-2.1) will be looked at as a little bit more than just so-so?

    And when was the last time a show on The CW got at least a 2.0 rating?

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