Looking At More Broadcast Erosion -- Any Way You Measure It

Live TV plus same-day time-shifted viewing ratings still hold value.

For the first week of the new TV season, average prime-time ratings among the key 18-49 viewers have been down 8% on average, looking at preliminary Nielsen live program plus same-day time-shifting viewing among the five English-language speaking networks.

Looking at the first four days of new season: On Thursday 18-49 ratings among ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW were down 18% to a 9.6; Wednesday showed a 27% increase to a 10.7 (chiefly because of one show, “Empire”, which grew the night almost three-fold for Fox versus a year ago); Tuesday slipped 3% to a 8.8; and Monday was down 26% to a 9.0 rating.

TV network executives will tell you the live program/same-day measure doesn’t say much. Prime-time live plus same-day ratings aren’t much of measure for TV executives who want to account for at all kind of viewing -- time-shifted, video-on-demand, digital and otherwise.

But for TV advertisers -- in general, those same-day program ratings continue to carry some insight.



More than a few veteran media agency executives continue to look at live program plus same day results as a proxy because they still run somewhat close to C3 ratings — just a couple of tenths of a rating point. C3 is the average commercial ratings plus three days of time shifting, still the main measure for national TV marketers in their media deals.

Why is this necessary? Because C3 ratings aren’t released regularly -- by Nielsen. This isn’t good in a real-time media world. Media agencies/marketers still need to account for the usual under-delivery of ratings on a timely basis.

That 8% drop in ratings points over the first four days of this season might sound roughly familiar. MoffettNathanson Research says there was a 9% decline in C3 ratings in August for the broadcast networks in prime time. In a similar vein, it says there was 9% decline in C3 among 18-49 viewers for total day viewing for the entire 2014-2015 season for the top four broadcast networks. Cable TV networks have showed similar results.

Does this give TV researchers some calm, that there are some logical predictions of TV viewing to come this season? Yes... and no.

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