Is Your Favorite Show Coming Back? Glitch Ruins TV Ratings for Months

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The Nielsen Company Admits a Software Glitch Screwed Up TV Ratings for Several TV Shows

Every day Hollywood producers sit by their computers to analyze the latest ratings to see how many and who watched their TV shows. The ratings are typically reported by the Nielsen company. But, according to recent reports, Nielsen has been inaccurately measuring ratings across network television. From The New York Times:

Nielsen, the television research firm, acknowledged on Friday that it had been reporting inaccurate ratings for the broadcast networks for the last seven months, a mistake that raises questions about the company’s increasingly criticized system for measuring TV audiences.

The error wound up benefiting one network, ABC, while negatively affecting the others, according to people briefed on the problem. In a telephone call with reporters, Nielsen executives would not confirm that it had resulted in added viewers for ABC, saying they could not discuss individual clients.

An ABC executive confirmed that the error had improved the network’s ratings. As for Nielsen, its executives played down the discrepancy in viewing totals, saying they fell between 0.1 percent and 0.25 percent of the viewing totals.

Also read: TV Ratings: How Does Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show compare to Leno’s?

So does that mean your favorite show that was cancelled a few weeks ago probably did really well, right? Not really. It doesn’t even mean that the TV ratings were screwed up in terms of where they actually landed in the ratings. But, what it did affect is how advertisers determine what they’re going to pay to networks for their ads and the revenue that comes along with it. Seven months of inaccurate statistics is pretty bad if you are considered the industry standard in measuring TV ratings. Nielsen is already considered out of touch with modern technology or unfair to the ways viewers typically watch TV.

Also read: TV Ratings: More People Watch ‘The Walking Dead’ than ‘Sunday Night Football’ AGAIN!

The company has come under increased pressure in recent years as television and advertising executives have called its methodology antiquated and questioned its ability to measure the ways people watch television today, whether on a traditional TV set in the living room or on a mobile phone on the fly. A range of outsiders, including Rentrak and comScore, are challenging Nielsen’s dominance by introducing methods to track TV viewing in the digital age.

Brian Wieser, a media analyst with Pivotal Research, said Nielsen was struggling on multiple fronts. “You’ve got a ‘death of TV’ fear in general, you have the Rentrak competitiveness issue, and you have the quality and integrity of the data issue,” Mr. Wieser said.

“Any one of those three things could come up at any time,” he added, “but for those to hit you all at the same time, wow.” (via)

Nielsen reports that they will adjust the ratings dating back to the first premiere date in August and all ratings from Friday, October 10th are correct following the fix in the analytic glitch. Maybe, CBS ‘Reckless’ will return for a season 2? One can only hope.

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