Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Yesterday I had lunch with two friends who worked with me during the Must-See-TV era. Neither of them were "creative" execs. They were both in finance. Although we didn't have the sexy jobs, together we made quite a bit of money for the Peacock.
Now that everyone is back from the Upfronts, I thought I would take you behind the scenes and give you a lesson in how the sausage is made: What happens after the schedules are announced, and what leads up to the actual selling of commercial inventory.
Things are always changing, and each network may do it a bit differently. There are also a lot of cross-platform deals. But here's what my two friends and I would do as soon as we returned from New York City.
We would rent a room at the Universal Hilton and would not come out of the room until we had our version of the tablets, which was a complete 52-week plan for the new season. We knew what we had ordered in terms of series. We knew the number of episodes for each show. We had news magazines to schedule as well as movies, miniseries and specials.
This all needed to be put on a scheduling grid, and I would meticulously go night-by-night and lay out the schedule, including repeats and pre-emptions. We also had sports pre-emptions to deal with and had to be cognizant of sales periods when the demand for inventory was at its peak.
We would often call our sales people for some perspective on what we were doing. All this had to be done within the money allocated for programming. This often meant cutting back on some specials and throwing in more repeats. This was multi-dimensional chess, but my two friends and I were a well-oiled machine and we trusted each other.
Once a 52-week grid was developed, it was up to the Research Department to do ratings estimates. Sales would attach CPMs (cost per thousand) to each show movie and special. The value of each show was different, so two shows with the same rating would be priced differently based on characteristics of their audience.
This is a pretty simple business. The ratings and the CPMs would give us an idea of revenue. That would be compared to all the costs of running a network (mostly programming and marketing), and you would determine your profit or loss.
The final step before selling the inventory was for my two colleagues and I to go up to Don Ohlmeyer's office and present him with the results. The meeting generally went like this: Don would look at me and ask, "Are you OK with this?" I would say "Yes" and he would say "OK." That was pretty much it.
What was great about working at NBC in the '90s was, as dysfunctional as it could get, there was enormous respect and trust for what each of us brought to the table.
The business keeps changing, and there are other sources of revenue now which mitigate declining ratings, softer CPMs and rising program costs. But coming back from the Upfront is when the hard work begins.
Last night we watched the final two episodes of "Jane the Virgin." Look gang, get on Netflix and start watching this show. You can thank me later. Also props to "Better Call Saul, which may well be my No. 1 show of the year.
On Twitter, @maskedscheduler. Email,

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Monday, May 22, 2017

The numbers for Monday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. The Voice (NBC) (8-10 p.m.) 1.9/7 9.49
Dancing With the Stars (ABC) 1.8/7 10.39
Gotham (FOX) 1.0/4 2.89
Princess Diana: Her Life, Her Death, the Truth (CBS) (8-10 p.m.) – S 0.8/3 6.11
Supergirl (The CW) – F 0.6/3 2.14
9 p.m. The Bachelorette (ABC) (9-11 p.m.) – P 1.8/7 5.68
Lucifer (FOX) 0.8/3 3.05
Jane the Virgin (The CW) – F 0.4/1 1.02
10 p.m. Running Wild with Bear Grylls (NBC) 0.9/3 3.70
The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special (CBS) – S 0.7/3 4.23


The premiere of “The Bachelorette” on ABC was off a bit from last year’s season debut. The show delivered a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 Monday night, down from a 2.0 for last year’s premiere. It did, however, help ABC to a victory in the demographic for the night along with “Dancing With the Stars” (1.8), which was up 0.3 week to week.

“DWTS” finished as close to “The Voice” (1.9, +0.1 vs. last week) as it ever has, but the NBC show still managed to lead the night in adults 18-49. An episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” earned a 0.9 at 10 p.m.

The finales of “Supergirl” (0.6) and “Jane the Virgin” (0.4) on The CW were both up week to week, with “Supergirl” growing by a tenth and “Jane” by two tenths. “Gotham” rose a tenth to 1.0 for FOX, while “Lucifer” held steady at 0.8.

CBS’ “Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special” posted a 0.7, down from a 0.9 for last year’s special. It was up slightly in viewers (4.23 million vs. 4.17 million) from a year ago.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.8/7 1.6/6 0.9/3 0.7/3 0.5/2
Total Viewers (millions) 7.25 7.56 2.97 5.49 1.57


Late-night metered market ratings (adults 18-49, households):

11:35 p.m.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.6/3, 1.9/5

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.6/3, 1.8/5

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.5/3, 2.6/7

12:35 a.m.

“Nightline”: 0.4/3, 1.3/4

“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: 0.3/2, 1.1/4

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: 0.3/2, 1.0/4

Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.
Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings are available at approximately 11 a.m. ET the day after telecast. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. 
Share (of Audience): 
The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. 
Time Shifted Viewing:
 Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live +Same-Day and Live +7 Day. Time-shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs. Live+SD includes viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3 a.m. local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live +7 ratings include  viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

Source: The Nielsen Company.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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