Recent headlines exclaiming "Cable News Ratings Soar," about how there were 72.5 billion minutes of news consumption in 2016, made me cringe. Any time you start talking about billions of minutes viewed, it's a not-too-transparent attempt to hide the fact that average ratings are small. This is relevant in light of Bill O'Reilly being fired from Fox News under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations.
As the NFL draft approaches, I thought I'd add my own two cents to the discussion of football ratings. Despite some ratings declines this past season, NFL football remains by far the highest-rated sport on television. While virtually everything on television declines almost every year, simply as a result of ever-expanding viewing options, when NFL ratings slip it seems to cause undue panic in many quarters.
Nielsen just released its quarterly "Total Audience" report, which provides an overview of the television landscape. The headlines that accompany these reports are often misleading, and sometimes simply misinterpret the data. I looked at the last three Q4 reports to get an idea of what's really going on.
I've long complained about misleading headlines in stories about media and television viewing. Headlines scream about how traditional TV is on the decline, while other screens are on the rise by leaps and bounds. It's not until you read the actual stories that you realize that, (in many of them) either the research is dubious or has been misinterpreted. Other screens are indeed on the rise, but traditional TV is still doing just fine, and remains dominant among virtually every age group. While annoying to those of us who analyze what's really going on in the industry, it doesn't matter …