Suddenly, the trade press is awash in stories about the “Live+3” ratings.
These are the numbers that measure a TV show’s additional viewership via other platforms and methods in the three days following their first airing -- including viewing on network Web sites, Hulu and the like, plus on-demand, DVR-recording and, in some cases, replays two days later on the same network.
The numbers were a horror story for this series, which Fox was touting more than any other new fall show. Despite the pre-publicity, “Scream Queens” drew a total audience of just 4.04 million, the worst of any show on the Big Four networks that evening.
It scored a 1.7 in the demo (18-49), which was on par with several other shows Tuesday night, but was drubbed by “The Voice” on NBC, which had a 3.5 in 18-49 viewers.
When the ratings came out on Wednesday, some critics -- who had panned the show to begin with -- declared “Scream Queens” to be dead on arrival. However, when the Live+3 numbers started to come out over the weekend for Tuesday night's shows, “Scream Queens” seemed to have risen from the dead, at least as far as the trade press was concerned.
Their stories crowed that “Scream Queens” increased its demo rating by a little over 1 point to bring its 18-49 tally to a 2.7 and change.
The stories said “Scream Queens” added about a million total viewers via streaming on Fox Now and Hulu. In addition, Fox replayed the entire two-hour premiere on Thursday night, where it drew an additional 2 million viewers. By virtue of all this padding, the total audience for “Scream Queens” got fluffed up to a bit north of 7 million viewers.
Fox execs then morphed from their impersonations of that famous Edvard Munch painting called “The Scream” to waxing enthusiastic about their show which they believed had gone from a miss to a hit in the space of three days. “ ‘Scream Queens’ is a model for contemporary viewership,” said a statement from Fox programming chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman (apparently, when they speak, they do so in unison).
All of the networks put out various releases last week ballyhooing the Live+3 numbers for Week 1 of the new season. Among the shows they highlighted for drawing additional viewership were “The Muppets” (ABC), “Limitless” (CBS), “Blindspot” (NBC) and a bunch of others.
Padding the numbers or otherwise putting the best possible face on the ratings is nothing new. Networks and their publicists have been doing this for decades. And you can hardly blame them for trying to draw attention to all of this additional viewership. Basically, by adding in these other numbers, you get totals that, in theory, don’t make the time slot-ratings results seem so bad.
And a viewer is a viewer, whenever or wherever they watch a TV show. So why not count them? Of course, where the advertising community is concerned, the significance of the Live+3 viewing experience is probably a subject for disagreement and debate since at least some of these other modes of viewing -- most notably DVR recording, for example -- give viewers an opportunity to fast-forward through the commercials.
However, judging from all the attention being paid to them over the last few days, these additional-day ratings -- whether they be “plus 3” or “plus 7” – are evidently here to stay.
Adam, since Nielsen only counts TV sets where the commercials were on the screen, whether "live" or delayed, what's the problem with including three-day delayed viewing? The real issue will arise when Nielsen tries to report on away-from-home "viewing". This is because Nielsen doesn't have a system that can measure whether anyone is "viewing" when it finds a receiver tuned in at a hotel, a bar, an office location, at school, etc. In such cases, it isn't true that "a viewer is a viewer", as many out-of-home receivers are not being attended by everyone within hearing distance. But this is an issue for the future. For now, I ask again---why not include three-day delayed viewing?