If you’ve been following our daily broadcast ratings, or TV ratings in general, then you’ll know that they’ve been in a sharp decline. Is that because there are so many options now that no one can get much of an audience share, or is it that more people are watching programming later through DVRs and streaming services?
The answer is probably a little bit of both, but the main takeaway is that it’s all still being figured out. For now, THR reports that Fox has announced it will no longer be issuing its live-plus-same-day ratings (more on that terminology in a moment). Even though that data will still be collected and available from Nielsen Media, the fact that Fox will not be sending out the reports suggests it won’t be considering them so influential when it comes to cancelling or renewing its programming.
That effect is already in place this fall season, though, where only one show — ABC’s Wicked City — has been cancelled outright and taken off the airwaves. All others (like NBC’s The Player, Fox’s Minority Report, and ABC’s Blood & Oil) have instead been given reduced episode orders, which not only means that the networks don’t have to find replacements for them, but in some cases (those that end up with 10 or so episodes and a clear ending) could be sold to streaming services in the future.
So back to that terminology: basically, ratings tally up the percentage of viewers ages 18-49 who are watching a particular show at a particular time. Networks use these numbers to sell commercial space, with higher-rated series being able to set higher prices for its ads. Live-and-same-day ratings take into account viewers that watched, well, live, or during a repeat that same night. “Time-shifted” ratings like Live+3 takes into account delayed viewing (on streaming or DVR), and the same is true with Live+7 (essentially, adding up all of the viewers for every showing of a particular program throughout the week — for channels like AMC, FX, and others, this adds significantly to its final numbers).
Some TV shows still generate a lot of live buzz (like Empire, ironically, on Fox), and Fox execs say they will still report the live numbers for events like sports and awards shows (which tend to have huge live-draw numbers). However, it appears that they will be holding off on commenting on any live ratings in the future, or at least, until the week’s numbers have been tallied.
It shows a big shift in the ratings game, one that may do away with daily ratings reports (in terms of their significance), and change the way that broadcasters look at which content they choose to renew. Could it also change the way they present that content? We’ll see, but it will be interesting to see if any of the other broadcasters join Fox in this same-day ratings boycott — and if it will really make a difference.