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The CW: We Want To Abandon Nielsen Ratings

Good cause, or just one struggling network blaming the messenger?

The CW recognizes it has low ratings -- even by basic cable standards. But instead of looking at how the network is doing in terms of affiliate coverage, or finding the right shows to attract a broader audience, The CW is taking a different route: blaming Nielsen.

The Nielsen Co. has been the primary viewer-counter for television networks for decades, but it's a role that has been highly controversial. Some claim that Nielsen does not effectively count everyone, and could overlook some key viewership groups. Others say the company has become stagnant in part because they operate what some describe as a monopolistic hold on the networks.

But no matter what someone's beef is with Nielsen, the fact is that The CW's numbers have been suffering a dramatic decline this year. In fact, the network is averaging a 1.1 rating/2 share overall in Fast National overnight ratings from Nielsen. That's down 21 percent from just last year.

All of its returning shows suffered audience losses, with nearly all of them in double-digits. Through the end of April, only "The Vampire Diaries" have a viewership erosion less than 10 percent (it's at about 6 percent). After that, the closest in audience loss is the departing "One Tree Hill," which lost more than 20 percent of its viewers from last year.

The CW is not just going to complain, however. It's going to act -- by creating its own measurement system, according to The Wrap.

Mark Pedowitz, the head of The CW, didn't reveal too many details about this new system, but did say that it would measure not only television viewers, but those who watch programs online. Nielsen does track some off-television distribution means, but because the percentage of viewers remain primarily in front of the television set (and because these viewers are not watching the standard commercials that come with the broadcast), those numbers are not given much weight.

But The CW, which was created in 2006 from the remnants of what was once The WB and UPN, isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, despite the lower ratings, the network is making some good money, including a deal with Netflix that has generated about $1 billion for The CW.

Yet, advertising is still the primary way to make money on television, and getting good ratings means networks can charge more for advertisers.

Of 13 shows aired on The CW this year, just seven are returning. No decision has been announced as of yet for its lowest-rated show, "L.A. Complex," but it's likely not returning next year either.

About the Author

Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus and is a veteran print journalist. He lives in Tampa, Fla.
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