TV's Version Of Piling On: How To Raise Your Numbers

NBC will perform a superhuman trick in the first week of the season - giving more muscle with the re-airing of "Heroes" on Saturday night, and asking Nielsen to cume -- or add ratings to get a bigger number.

It's yet to be determined if that trick -- being able to leap tall buildings at a single bound -- will become standard stuff for the network or anyone else.

NBC found a seam in new Nielsen rules -- and will now use it. It says that if you rerun a show within a week of its original initial airing, and you run the identical national advertising and in the same order, you can cume, or add the ratings together.

But let's be frank. What will this really mean for the "Heroes" Monday night 6.5 rating among 18-49 viewers on Sunday morning? The number probably won't go much higher.



First off, the typical reruns of any drama can offer up less than half the original rating. Not only that, but Nielsen will only add in unduplicated audiences of the second airing. So that 6.5 rating won't be a 13, or even a 10 or an 8. It'll probably just climb to a 7.1 or so -- maybe less than that.

Second, it seems crazy to think that NBC would be using this to skew weekly results. It's just one show -- albeit, a very big show for NBC.

NBC would need to repeat this advertising scheme again and again to give it what it really needs -- a jump in ratings for the reason. That is, get one lone exclusive advertiser, such as Nissan, to commit to a specific big episode, as it did with the "Heroes" premiere episode.

How many shows are NBC scheduling like that this year? None announced so far. Maybe it could do the same for season finales. But those exclusive deals take a long time to put together, and only a few top TV advertisers can handle such a big media commitment.

NBC's point of view is different. NBC's chief research executive, Alan Wurtzel, has a strong point that since the entire video world is moving to cume viewership results, especially in a more fragmented media world, it makes sense for TV to do the same.

Syndicated TV shows already sell off cume scores to marketers - as they regularly double-run episodes of Monday to Friday shows, typically in late nighttime slots.

The biggest complainers seem to be cable networks - because, for some reason, according to sources, Nielsen cannot accurately cume cable shows. Still, cable networks do sell multiple airings of the same episode to advertisers. As far as other broadcast networks are concerned, they might not be complaining much -- considering everyone knew about this rule change.

Interestingly, having a single sponsor is exactly the way many networks structure their Internet video deals with marketers. No complaints there. An advertiser will get three or four commercials in a single video stream of an episode.

Perhaps all this will come to television in, say, 10 years -- when the top TV shows don't get 11 rating among 18-49 viewers - but, say, a 1.1 rating.

At that rate, direct response advertisers like the Perfect Pushup will be able to exclusively own the premiere of "Heroes: Save the Cheerleader's Daughter Again."

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