Nielsen Reveals 646,000 Program Universe

In a finding that makes John Malone's apocryphal "500 channel universe" seem quaint by comparison, Nielsen this morning released a report estimating the number of "unique program titles" currently available to American viewers in 2019 was 646,000, a 10% increase from 2018.

That stat, which includes all viewing sources, including video-on-demand, as well as streaming services, also makes FX Networks annual original scripted series count seem quaint.

At last count, FX Networks estimated there were 532 original scripted series available on linear TV in 2019.

The vast majority of those series are available via VOD services (see data below), but streaming is adding to the pie. It's also taking from the TV viewing pie, accounting for 19% of all usage among viewers in 2019.

Source: Nielsen, 2020 Total Audience Report.



16 comments about "Nielsen Reveals 646,000 Program Universe".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 11, 2020 at 9:49 a.m.

    Joe, isn't Nielsen referring to the number of episodes as opposed to distinct series that are available? For example, if an old sitcom series with 300 episodes is available to Disney+ subs does that count as 300 "programs"? Or, taking an original broadcast network sitcom series which presents one episode per week---the others not being available on demand---does that count as a single "program"? I don't have the Nielsen report but I was just wondering if it gives a definition in its appendix?Another question concerns the coverage of the various sources of content. If a SVOD service has 25,000 titles available but its subscribers amount to only 20% of all homes, is the number of its episodes that are available to the average person---nationwide---- 5000?

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, February 11, 2020 at 10:15 a.m.

    @Ed Papazin: I'm checking on that, but this is literally how Nielsen describes it. They said programs, not "episodes."

    "Through December 2019, U.S. consumers had access to more than 646,000 unique programs titles to choose from across linear and streaming services. That’s a 10% increase from all of 2018."

    It's possible they meant episodes. I'll update this accordingly if it needs to be.

  3. Julie Riley from WISH-TV, February 11, 2020 at 10:46 a.m.

    I just read a separate article on this and episodes are not counted individually.  If you're streaming Friends, it's just counted as Friends.  But if they got even more granular based on episode titles (like one of my favorites ever WKRP Turkey Drop), I imagine this number would go up.  The question becomes how much and what are the most streamed episodes.  And here's another question...what is the metric of if the show is fully watched or is there a tune-in factor here?  I'm interested in seeing the report and if there is an appendix.

  4. Will Kreth from HAND (Human & Digital), February 11, 2020 at 10:47 a.m.

    I think Ed is right. A "title" in my experience is either a single episode of a series -- or a stand-alone program / event (like the Oscars last night) sometimes referred to as an "OTO" (one-time only) premiere (once I'd have said "broadcast" - but that is no longer inclusive enough for where we're at).  What would be of additional segmentation interest is how many (if any) of these 646K titles are neither ad-supported & rated content nor SVOD titles.  Most likely, those title would be on linear platforms. 

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 11, 2020 at 10:52 a.m.

    Thanks, Joe. Also, don't forget to ask about how the numbers were weighted---if at all---by their degree of coverage. I hope that they were weighted in some sensible manner but it wouldn't surprise me if this wasn't the case.

  6. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, February 11, 2020 at 11:08 a.m.

    @Ed Papazian: To answer your question, the stat representsts titles for the programs/shows and not individual episodes.

  7. Will Kreth from HAND (Human & Digital), February 11, 2020 at 11:36 a.m.

    Thanks, Joe - so - by this model / methodology, a "unique program title" - take the series "Big Bang Theory" (all its many seasons and episodes) is counted a one (1) title, equal to or the same as a single movie - say "The Irishman" - correct?

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 11, 2020 at 12:22 p.m.

    Thanks, Joe.

  9. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, February 11, 2020 at 12:32 p.m.

    @Will Kreth: Not sure why, but having a hard time getting a clearer answer than what I just added above, but that's the way I infer it. It definitely is NOT episodes. So if not episodes, I would assume it means series, mini-series, specials, OTOs, etc. (ie. discrete programs).

  10. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 11, 2020 at 1:12 p.m.

    Guys,  here's some data to ponder.  If you take an average day--24 hours----and start with the three  fully programmed broadcast TV networks---ABC, CBS and NBC---- they put out about 50-55 shows per day across all dayparts. Reduce this for the fact that their "linear TV" coverage is only around 85% and this means that an average person can watch about 45 of these programs if he/she had three sets in operation at all times. Do the same thing with syndication---about 150 shows and a 75% coverage factor ---and their number works out to about 100-115---again, if you kept at least five sets in use at all times---maybe more. Taking the stations at five news shows daily for each, but lowering coverage to .5% per station and you get another 30 or so shows available per day  on a national basis. For basic cable let's assume 175 channels --all operating 24/7. That means about 24 shows per channel daily---but with only 65-70% U.S. coverage per channel, this nets down to about 2800 shows available with many sets tuned in at the same time per household. Finally,  toss in a few more to cover Fox and the CW networks and the total tally is roughly 3000 "linear TV"  shows that might be watched per day---yet the average person actually watches only 3 "linear TV" shows per day and spends about the same number of hours doing so. But Nielsen is claiming that the" linear TV" share of the overall available program total (  47% of 646,000 ) is 303,000 programs. What's more 16% of the total---or 103,000 programs--- are exclusive to "linear TV". Food for thought?

  11. Bill Shane from Eastlan Ratings replied, February 11, 2020 at 2:05 p.m.

    Ed, you must be right in your reference to the number of episodes as opposed to the number of programs.  I know it's a busy world out there, but 646,000 programs even including all the streaming services, is a ridiculously high number.  Regarding your SVOD theory, it shouldn't matter if the percetage of viewers is 1% or 100%, the number of programs available would be the same, however, the number of views would vary. 

  12. pj bednarski from Media business freelancer, February 12, 2020 at 5 p.m.

    I've been counrting since yesterday and I'm only up to 204,326. It's fun. I just watched "Advanced Horsemanship" on RFD-TV. It was the second of a  two-parter as Scot continued his work with Janet Cotton to get her confidence back up. That was a good one. 

  13. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 12, 2020 at 5:36 p.m.

    Pj, did you count that as one or two "programs"?

  14. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, February 13, 2020 at 9:38 a.m.

    Tuning data has no influence on these counts.  It's simply the number of program titles available across all sources that have been detected, I suppose, by Nielsen. From the graph, a fraction of these are on linear channels. Looking at SVOD, the number includes each services vast library of programs and movies, right?

  15. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 13, 2020 at 12:33 p.m.

    Jack, according to the chart, 47% of the "programs" available to the average viewer  come from "linear TV" which translates into 304,000 shows that we are led to believe could be watched at a given point by a viewer. My point about weighting refers not to tune in but the extent of coverage of a particular  source. For example if a cable channel has 200 shows that might be watched but it can be seen by only half of the country, then, on a national basis, only 100 of its shows might be seen. Also, since "linear TV" sources---broadcast nets, syndication, basic cable and local ststion fare---- are not available "on demand"  and since the average home can receive only 180 channels---per Joe's latest report---how is it possible for these 180 channels to offer 304,000 different shows  at any particular time to a potential viewer?

  16. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, February 13, 2020 at 1:16 p.m.

    Am also guessing each local program/local news/etc counts as well. 

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