Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Over the past few weeks I have received lots of mail on the potential sale of most of 21st Century Fox to Disney. Well, it happened this morning. I will try to absorb it all and comment tomorrow. Meanwhile ...
This is what’s on LH's mind: "When it comes to TV ratings, does the total number of viewers of a given show still matter to the broadcast networks? TV by the Numbers itself focuses mainly on the 18-49 demographic when constructing its Renew/Cancel predictions. I'm just wondering if the networks tend to focus on that stat or if they will consider the total number of viewers for a given show (especially in this age where total network viewership appears to be down)."
There has always been a tension among program executives between developing "big tent" shows that attract all age groups and shows which are narrowly targeted to the 18-49 or even the 18-34 demo. The currency in the business remains 18-54, with some segment of that being the primary target. That is why TVBTN focuses on the 18-49 demo.
What is happening in the business is that the proportion of revenue a series generates coming from ad sales has been shrinking as studios and their sister networks are selling their properties to streaming services. Total viewership, as a measure of the popularity of a show, is a factor in these transactions. There is also a movement away from the ad sale simply being based on a demo rating with proof of purchase being factored in.
Finally, Nielsen still uses total audience to validate a network's claim of being No. 1. CBS makes those claims based on some cumulative total-viewer measure, which is approved by Nielsen. I remember when I was at FOX and "American Idol" was at its peak, we had the Super Bowl and there was a moment when we surpassed CBS and could make the claim that we were the No. 1 network. If my memory serves me, we asked Nielsen to tell CBS to cease making the claim. I don't believe they did, and for a few weeks, there were two networks claiming to be No. 1.
One more point. It's a lot harder to target a specific demo, and if you target everyone, you will get your 18-49 and 25-54 viewers. FOX, more than the other networks, continues to narrowcast under the erroneous belief that they are in some way the edgy network. This has been at the expense of giving up large segments of the audience.
When you look at the daily TVBTN charts, you will notice that although FOX sometimes matches the other networks in 18-49s, they are several million behind the others in 2+. Their biggest shows in recent years ("Idol," "House" and "Bones") attracted a large older audience in addition to getting the 18-49s.
Email questions to On Twitter it's @maskedscheduler.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017

The numbers for Wednesday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 rating/share
Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. Empire (FOX) 1.9/7 5.95
Survivor (CBS) 1.7/7 8.67
The Goldbergs (ABC) 1.6/6 6.10
The Wall (NBC) – R 0.8/3 3.83
Riverdale (The CW) 0.5/2 1.42
8:30 p.m. Speechless (ABC) 1.1/4 4.58
9 p.m. Modern Family (ABC) 1.7/7 5.91
Star (FOX) 1.3/5 4.16
Golden Globes 75th Anniversary Special (NBC) (9-11 p.m.) 0.8/3 4.39
SEAL Team (CBS) – R 0.7/3 4.73
Dynasty (The CW) 0.2/1 0.72
9:30 p.m. American Housewife (ABC) 1.3/5 4.82
10 p.m. Designated Survivor (ABC) 0.8/3 4.39
Criminal Minds (CBS) – R 0.7/3 4.01


The Wednesday lineups on ABC and FOX aired their final episodes of 2017, and for the most part they went out with improved ratings.

“Empire” led the night among adults 18-49 with a 1.9 rating, up a tenth of a point vs. last week for FOX. “Star” (1.3) also rose a tenth.

At ABC, “The Goldbergs” (1.6, +0.1 vs. last week) tied its second-best rating of the season, and “American Housewife” (1.3) and “Designated Surivvor” (0.8) each ticked up a tenth. “Speechless” and “Modern Family” were even with last week.

“Survivor” scored a 1.7 for CBS, off a tenth vs. a week ago. A Golden Globes retrospective scored a 0.8 for NBC. “Riverdale” (0.5) and “Dynasty” (0.2) both held steady on The CW.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.6/6 1.2/5 1.0/4 0.8/3 0.3/1
Total Viewers (millions) 5.05 5.03 5.80 4.20 1.07


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

11:35 p.m.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.6/4, 2.1/6

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

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.5/3, 1.8/5

12:35 a.m.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: 0.5/4, 1.3/5

“Nightline”: 0.4/3, 1.3/4

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


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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