Nielsen Methodology Shift Drops CW From List

Nielsen releases revised top 10 lists accounting for CW shows.

Nielsen is releasing a couple of new Top 10 lists to clarify a methodology change that knocked The CW off the charts.

When Nielsen released their top 10 lists for 2008 on Friday (Dec. 12), The CW’s programs failed to make the list of the top 10 timeshifted programs, even though four CW programs that had made that list in 2006 are still on the air and drawing a large percentage of their viewing from timeshifters..

When asked about the apparent decline in timeshifting of CW shows, The CW’s Paul Hewitt, VP, corporate communications, didn’t know why The CW shows wouldn’t have made the list, explaining that 90210’s ratings increase by 35% when time shifting is added in, which should tie it with Heroes for number one.

Alana Johnson, Nielsen’s press contact for the television lists, was asked to explain why 90210 didn’t make the list, despite percentage gains as big as Heroes

Johnson said that the list was based on the percent increase between the Live and the Live+7 ratings, and suggested The CW was running their calculations with a limited demographic.  

The percent increase between the Live and the Live+7 ratings was the methodology used to rank the shows back in 2006. But starting in 2007, Nielsen changed its methodology, ranking the shows by the difference in raw numbers between live and timeshifted viewing before ranking them by percentage increases.  Johnson explains it this way: “Live 000s (average audience) were subtracted from the L+7 000s to obtain the absolute difference in Households. The programs were then sorted so the top ten programs were first. Then, the percent difference was calculated for each of these programs, and the top ten were then re-sorted based on this percent difference.”

 That change knocked The CW off the chart entirely because the time shifted audience to the netlet’s shows was not large enough to make the initial top 10 ranking.

 But Nielsen gave the list the same title – Top 10 “Timeshifted” Primetime TV Programs – and the same percent increases, while using the new methodology to rank programs. The only thing worded differently between the 2006 and the 2007 and 2008 press releases is where Nielsen explains what the “Percent Increase in viewership is based on” even though the percent increase is not what changed.

 Johnson declined to comment on why the methodology was changed, or why Nielsen had not pointed out that such a change had been made.

 Only after Nielsen had been contacted by both Broadcasting & Cable and The CW did Johnson say that the company would release “two additional time-shifted lists for 2008 to show how the rankings can vary depending on whether you show raw number differences or ratings differences.”

 Below is the list of the Top 10 “Timeshifted” Primetime TV Programs of 2008 using the methodology Nielsen used in 2006. By that measure,  90210 is at the top of the list, with a 35% increase in viewership, based on the same household ratings and date range that Nielsen used for their official list. In total, four CW shows made the list.