I imagine everyone who reads this article have watched at least one TV series they fell in love with that got cancelled after only a single season. No matter how much you convince other people to watch or talk about it online no one seems to care. Off the top of my head I can think of two recent series that I loved yet they were cancelled (Selfie and Backstrom). So how do TV stations decide what stays and what goes every year? They have the Nielsen Ratings gauging viewer activity over the major four stations (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX). But is this system as foolproof as it should be? Let’s take a closer look at some of issues plaguing Nielsen Ratings.

-Limited Scope-

Recent polls show that the average American watches about five hours of television a day. As of today there is just under 320 million people living in the U.S. So that’s over a billion hours spent in front of the idiot box. But of those people and hours only a small portion is actually tracked. It’s been stated that the Nielsen Ratings only monitor the watching habits of anywhere from 5 thousand to 50 thousand people.  With those numbers it means every one person getting tracked speaks for 6,400 viewers. I can guarantee that if you put 6,400 people in the same room only a small fraction would sync up with that one person’s viewing habits.

-Lack of Diversity-

A major problem in factoring accurate results is the lack of set meters in minority households. This would mean that shows starring non-white actors might be at a major disadvantage. Although the Nielsen Ratings have countered saying that set meters do represent an accurate representation of minority viewers they’ve also spent $50 million to add additional set meters in homes of African American and Latino families. Even with all of this there still seems to be no real proof that there’s any accurate data for minority watching habits.

-Eyes Equal Money-

The whole point of the Nielsen Ratings is to gauge the number of people watching a single show in order figure out how much advertisement time during these shows is worth. The more viewers tuning in the more money a station can charge for a 30 second commercial. This means that even if a show is watched by millions of people a station may not want to keep it because they think something else could get better ratings in that timeslot based off Nielsen data. And even if it’s only a slight spike in ratings that still means the station makes more money. That’s all they need to hear to make sure a timeslot gets a different show.

-Still Lagging Behind DVR and Online Watching-

As technology changes the way we watch television shows you’d expect that tracking these new systems would be a priority. Nielsen has only started to get on this bandwagon and track the viewer numbers from online outlets. Even worse is that most TV stations themselves don’t really care about how a show performs online.

-What’s the Answer?-

What it’s going to take is a major shift in the traditional ratings system. With the advent of smart TVs we now have a way to start using an Internet connection to look at a wider demographic. Start by creating an app that people could download on their TVs and other viewing devices that would make it easier than acquiring and installing a set meter. Partner with DVR manufacturers to get set meters integrated with their hardware. And begin placing a stronger emphasis on what people are watching on Hulu. As usual, what are your thoughts? Do you think some shows could’ve been been saved from cancellation if they tracked viewership better? What single season shows do you miss? Should I write an article about the single season shows I love?

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2 thoughts on “Why The Nielsen Ratings Needs an Overhaul

  1. I agree, I think it needs to change but why should show renewal be based on ratings alone. A lot of shows are on social media now and interact with fans. Surely the level of interaction should considered with the ratings?

    Liked by 1 person

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