Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Several years ago, around the time the networks were starting to think about how to keep viewers through the commercial breaks, I was watching the NFL Draft on ESPN and observed that the commercials were surrounded on the screen by data about the draft. It occurred to me this tactic could be expanded to other shows.
My mind immediately went to "American Idol," and I spoke to sales about experimenting with staying live during network commercial breaks. We could position cameras backstage and watch the performers as they were coming back after their number. I thought it would keep viewers who record the show from fast forwarding.
I was immediately shot down and told that no advertiser would agree to share the screen with entertainment. As always, I felt it had more to do with laziness on the part of our sales dudes than to any empirical evidence to support this position.
But I was like a dog with a bone, and finally sales agreed to try it for one break in "Idol." Unfortunately, our unscripted group dropped the ball, and all we got during the break was an empty stage. That was the end of the experiment.
I'm happy to report that this tactic is being used more and more by the networks, especially in live sports, where you're starting to see six-second ads during lulls in game action. USA also uses it quite effectively for "Monday Night Raw" and "Smackdown Live."
I feel vindicated, and I suggest that these live singing competition shows should try employing this as well.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017

Note: Live sports coverage on CBS and NBC will likely result in greater adjustments than usual for those networks.

The numbers for Sunday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 rating/share
Viewers (millions)
7 p.m. NFL overrun (CBS) (7-7:46 p.m.) 4.0/14 16.77
Football Night in America (NBC) (7-8:30 p.m.) 2.8/9 9.34
Miss Universe Competition (FOX) (7-10 p.m.) – S 1.1/4 4.41
America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) – R 0.9/3 5.07
7:30 p.m. 60 Minutes (CBS) (7:46-8:46 p.m.) 1.5/5 9.94
8 p.m. America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) 1.2/4 5.26
8:30 p.m. Sunday Night Football (NBC) (8:30-11 p.m.) 5.1/17 16.36
Wisdom of the Crowd (CBS) (8:46-9:46 p.m.) 0.9/3 6.91
9 p.m. Shark Tank (ABC) 1.0/3 4.10
9:30 p.m. NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) (9:46-10:46 p.m.) 0.8/3 7.08
10 p.m. Shark Tank (ABC) – R 0.8/3 3.18


FOX’s broadcast of the Miss Universe competition came down in the ratings from the last time out, when it aired against lighter competition.

The three-hour special drew a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 4.41 million viewers Sunday, down from 1.5 and 5.22 million viewers for the last pageant in January.

“Sunday Night Football” scored an easy win in primetime for NBC. The Packers-Steelers game earned a 12.2 household rating in the metered markets, down from last week’s two-month high but a little ahead of the comparable night a year ago.

“America’s Funniest Home Videos” (1.2) and “Shark Tank” (1.0) were both a little above average for ABC, with “AFV” recording a a season high.

CBS’ numbers are unreliable at the moment due to odd start times following a 46-minute NFL overrun. Ratings for “Madam Secretary” will be included in the finals when they’re released Wednesday morning.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 4.2/14 1.8/7 1.1/4 1.0/4
Total Viewers (millions) 13.72 10.17 4.41 4.40


: 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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