Nielsen Now Counting All RunsNew syndication ‘average audience’ ratings to reflect all airings of shows in final figures 4/25/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
In a nod to modern viewing habits, Nielsen is
modifying the way it tallies “average audience”
ratings, and most syndicators support the change.
Up until the week ended April 3, Nielsen looked
at national ratings as either average audience (AA) or
gross average audience (GAA).
In AA ratings, only one daily viewing of a show
was counted in a show’s national ratings average. For
example, if a viewer watched both daily runs of CBS
Television Distribution’s Judge Judy and both episodes
included the same batch of national commercials, only
one viewing would be counted in the show’s AA ratings.
Both viewings, however, would be counted in
the GAA rating.
In many cases, but particularly in the cases of shows
with robust double-runs such as Judy or Warner Bros.’
Two and a Half Men, the GAA rating paints a much
stronger performance picture. All syndicators sell national
advertising in syndicated shows on a GAA basis.
“The perception is that Oprah has the most viewers
in daytime, but the reality is Judy does,” says John
Nogawski, president of CBS Television Distribution.
“Nielsen’s latest changes now accurately reflect this.”
As it moves into offering extended screen ratings,
Nielsen is working to establish a rating that includes
all program viewing that takes place within a single
day, regardless of platform. If a viewer watches CBS
Television Distribution’s Oprah after picking the kids
up from school and then again on their DVR before going
to bed, both of those views will now be counted in
Nielsen’s new AA rating, says Pat McDonough, Nielsen
senior VP of insights and analysis.
“This is a recognition that the same content is going
to be watched whether it’s online, on a DVR, live or on
video-on-demand,” McDonough says. “If I watch a show
all of those times, I should be counted all of those times.”
While this change will apply across all of television—
primetime, cable and syndication—using the
GAA rating instead of the AA rating is an argument
that syndicators have been making to the media for
years. Up until now, media—including B&C—have
used only AA ratings when considering any syndicated
show’s performance. This was because the AA rating
was considered to be a more consistent look at how all
shows were performing, since not all shows have the
benefit of double runs.
Online platforms and DVRs changed that, however,
and now all shows have the opportunity to be seen
several times per day.
“Viewer behavior across platforms is so important as
we move into this new space,” says Liz Huszarik, senior
VP of Warner Bros. Media Research & Insights. “We want
to understand how viewing is evolving across media, and
then we want to understand how to monetize it.”
In order to be counted in the new AA rating, programs
must include the same raft of national commercials.
Online views of an episode of ABC’s Grey’s
Anatomy, for example, won’t be counted in the new
rating if the online version comes with a different national
The currency of the television ad sales business remains
the C3 rating, which measures viewership of commercials—
not the programs in which those ads are placed—
over three days of viewing. The average audience program
ratings will be incorporated into the C3 ratings,
but AA ratings also will be separately available. Nielsen
expects buyers and sellers of TV time will want both.
“The way people buy commercials is geared around
advertisers wanting to reach enough people to cover
their target demographic,” says McDonough. “Once
that’s accomplished, advertisers know they’ve reached
enough people to sell a certain amount of product.”
With the methodology change, reporters now will
report a number that reflects cumulative audience
numbers. And advertisers will buy ad time based on
a number that includes online airings. How this will
affect ad loads in online plays remains to be seen, although
some posit that networks will be more inclined
to air the same batch of national commercials when a
show airs online in order to reap the positive ratings
result. Online shows that air with different commercial
loads will be given a separate rating.
While the change marks an important distinction
for national syndicators and advertisers, it does not affect
local television stations. Says one station executive:
“Stations are only looking at local ratings, and those
can differ wildly from a show’s national rating.”