Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

It's decision-making week at the networks, which means that the evergreen debate regarding the use of program testing is going on in full force. "Creatives" generally despise it since testing reduces their hard work to a set of numbers. Suits are perceived to rely on it over the words of the creative executives. Regardless, the program testing meeting is the tensest and most well-attended meeting of decision week.
I wrote quite a bit about pilot testing on my blog, Revenge of the Masked Scheduler, but I thought I would give you a few insights as we start to see pilot pickups. NBC has picked up three shows and FOX one, and they also have a 13-episode commitment straight to air for a Seth MacFarlane project [Ed. Note: It's sci-fi project called "Orville"].
The method of collecting data on testing keeps changing, as do the metrics, but at the end of the day it's pretty simple. After screening the pilot respondents are asked a series of questions. When Research reports those findings to the executives it generally comes down to this:
- How would you rate the show? (generally a five-point scale from Excellent to Poor)
- What is your interest in viewing another episode? (Also ranging from Very Interested to None)
- How would you rate the characters? (Broken down into leads and supporting roles)
- Rating the characteristics of the show (examples being "held my interest," "predictability," "pacing")
- How would you evaluate the primary relationships in the show?
Finally, there will be a set of questions for comedies and a separate set for dramas. We would often break out science fiction/fantasy into its own set of norms, since they tended to overperform in the testing.
The data for a pilot would then be compared to a set of averages (norms) for similar shows tested in the past on the network. Speaking of that, at FOX we would ask what network the respondent felt this show would appear on. We called it the FOX Fit.
As you can see, there's a lot of data, and it would be the job of Research to analyze it all. When I ran Research at FOX, we would never recommend whether or not to pick up a series; rather we assumed that everything was moving forward to series (even if we had a pretty good idea it would fail). Our role was to point out the obstacles to a successful series based on the testing, and what would need to be addressed in series.
Tomorrow I'll talk more about this.
Last night's sked:
- "Smackdown" (USA, live)
- "Fargo" (FX, episode 4 screener) Noah Hawley is coming down with a case of the Noah Hawleys. He may want to get himself checked out. Love the show, but it's becoming a bit of "Hey Look At What I Can Do TV," which can become a distraction.
- "Jane the Virgin" (CW, L+1)
- "Fresh Off the Boat" (ABC, L+SD) I love, love this show and I will forgive ABC for "Imaginary Mary" and "Downward Dog" if they add another gem to their family comedies next season.
On Twitter it's @maskedscheduler. Email goes to

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The numbers for Tuesday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. The Voice (NBC) 1.6/7 8.50
NCIS (CBS) 1.4/6 13.04
The Middle (ABC) 1.2/5 4.96
The Flash (The CW) 1.0/4 2.62
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) (8-9 p.m.) 0.6/2 1.65
8:30 p.m. American Housewife (ABC) 1.2/5 4.25
9 p.m. Bull (CBS) 1.2/5 10.89
Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) 1.0/4 3.44
Prison Break (FOX) 0.9/3 2.41
Great News (NBC) 0.8/3 3.55
iZombie (The CW) 0.4/1 1.06
9:30 p.m. Imaginary Mary (ABC) 0.9/3 2.92
Great News (NBC) 0.7/3 2.76
10 p.m. Chicago Fire (NBC) 1.2/5 5.81
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) 1.0/4 8.89
Agents of SHIELD (ABC) 0.7/3 2.15


Tuesday’s broadcast ratings look very much like they did a week ago, with the majority of shows holding steady with their previous numbers.

There were a few exceptions, however, including a 0.1 uptick for “iZombie” on The CW (0.4 rating in adults 18-49). “Great News” also improved slightly for NBC, drawing 0.8/0.7 for its two episodes vs. 0.8/0.6 last week. “The Middle” (1.2) is up over last week’s preliminary 1.1 and even with its final rating, and “Imaginary Mary” (0.9) improved by two tenths of a point. “Prison Break” is even with last week’s early 0.9 and up a tenth from its final number.

“The Voice” (1.6) and “NCIS” (1.4) were the night’s top shows once again, matching last week’s numbers. “NCIS” drew a somewhat larger total audience than last week at just over 13 million. Everything else was even with a week ago.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.2/5 1.2/5 1.0/4 0.8/3 0.7/3
Total Viewers (millions) 10.94 5.82 3.31 2.03 1.84


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

11:35 p.m.

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.7/4, 3.1/8

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.6/4, 2.0/5

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.5/3, 1.5/4

12:35 a.m.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: 0.4/3, 1.2/4

“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: 0.3/3, 1.3/5

“Nightline”: 0.3/2, 1.1/4

: 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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