For those tuning in to the new television season, wondering whether the shows they love will survive, if shows they are mystified will stay on the air for reasons that baffle them, and simply trying to figure out what shows they will be watching for the next several months, the Nielsen Ratings are something they are, on some level, aware of. After all, for decades, we have all been aware that the Nielsen’s are how the networks heard whether or not people were tuning in. If the people do not come, the show can not stay on the air… commercials need to be seen so money can be made, it is part of the age old rhythm of the television and entertainment industry.
In the past few years things have been changing slightly — overnight ratings have been giving way to same day +1, same day +3, and same day +7 as networks recognized the saturation of DVRs in households, and tried to account for the number of people who were recording shows for later viewing. The simple truth however, is if you record a show, and do not watch it within 1 week, you count, as a viewer, for less than those who watch it within that first week.
The issue of how the +1, +3, and +7 numbers are gathered is murky territory I will leave others to debate and discuss. Undoubtedly some are unhappy with the two way communication going on between DVRs and providers and this real time contribution to statistics and ratings — but for others, the chance to be able to effectively vote for favorite shows is an empowering feeling. Especially if they are viewers who have had a number of favorite shows cancelled out from under them.
So why write this article now? The Hollywood Reporter published an article this past week, as did a few other industry publications, stating that Nielsen has acknowledge a software glitch that led to inaccurate numbers being reported — since MARCH of this year. The glitch has been corrected, and for the past several days numbers have been accurate, and Nielsen is working to recalculate numbers for the period affected.
It is hoped that October 17th new numbers will be released, including revised numbers for the shows that have already premiered during the Fall 2014 television season. It is hoped that the numbers will not alter dramatically, and thus far very few shows have been picked up for the entire season.
It is interesting to note that the show Unforgettable was cancelled after the glitch was announced, and before the revised numbers came out. All of their summer season’s episodes would have aired during the glitch period, and thus be effected. Then again, Unforgettable has been cancelled, and un-cancelled before, so perhaps CBS is unconcerned about a possibly premature decision on the show which had already been moved to the summer season because of lackluster viewership during the traditional television season. (An unfortunate fact given the show had a fun sense of humor, and lots of entertaining moments.)
It will be interesting to see next week how the newly calculated numbers come out, and how the networks particularly feel about them. With more and more viewers streaming shows through network websites, as well as Hulu, Amazon video-on-demand, cable video-on-demand options, and a variety of other ways of seeing shows after they have aired at their appointed times, traditional same-day and overnight ratings numbers have decreased in significance, and the new numbers may be forced to reflect the +7 facts as well.