But much the way the TV universe has evolved in terms of the types of programs -- and platforms -- that critics review and people watch, it has also been affecting the statistical way ratings are actually calculated, and much to the chagrin of programmers, those changes usually mean increasingly lower ratings.
Part of that trend is related to a real programming phenomenon: the golden age of Peak TV has created so much watchable programming that audiences -- and ratings -- have increasingly fragmented.
But part of it has to do with methodological changes in the way companies like Nielsen estimate the ratings of television programs.
Remember, a rating point represents a percentage of viewers available in the television universe -- whether they are actually watching something or not.
And in recent years, as more and more viewers began watching TV in non-traditional ways -- namely over-the-top, via the internet, on connected TVs, etc. -- Nielsen has had to effectively redefine and recalibrate the way it defines the television universe.
The last big change was when it began including broadband-only households -- homes that have no conventional linear TV access, but may or may not watch TV online or via connected devices.
TV programmers resisted that change, because it increased the size of the denominator that ratings are derived from, making them look even smaller.
Today, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) is releasing new data -- as well as a call to the advertising and TV industry -- to change the definition of the TV universe once again: moving from the concept of "TV households" to "TV-accessible households." Or in the parlance of ubiquitous industry algorithms, "TVAs."
Based on the ARF's new research estimates, 5% of U.S. households currently do not even own a TV set, but 4% have broadband access and therefore theoretically are TV-accessible under this new definition.
The new definition makes sense, and is more representative of today's actual "TV universe."
But the ARF's call nonetheless will be controversial among TV programmers, because it will also likely have the effect of increasing the denominator ratings are derived from and reducing the ratings reported for any given television program.
So here's my solution: Maybe it's time to scrap ratings altogether, and just use the number of people who watched a TV show?
The truth is the ad industry has already moved away from estimating campaigns based on so-called GRPs (gross rating points) and simply calculating the number of impressions (viewers) reached.
So maybe it's time for the rest of us, TV critics included, to say RIP to TV ratings.