Nielsen Touts That Its Total Audience Ratings Reveal Where Some Networks Are Growing

CBS, TBS and ESPN saw gains in their viewers

TV's most-watched comedy, The Big Bang Theory, saw a 67 percent audience increase from live-plus-same-day data to live-plus-35-day.
Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS

With TV network upfront season on the horizon, data and measurement powerhouse Nielsen held its annual press breakfast this morning at the W New York—Union Square hotel. Executives provided the press with a deep dive into the complex present-day media ecosystem and the continued emergence of TV-connected devices as reasons why ratings aren’t as bad as they may seem, before heading into discussion about Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement framework.

Nielsen’s evp of client solutions and audience insights Sara Erichson went over the general increase in media consumption on various platforms. Back in 2002, the typical adult consumed approximately 50 hours of media per week, either via the TV or VCR. In 2016, that weekly media consumption figure climbed to around 80 hours, with tablet, smartphone, personal computer content consumption driving the increase.

Erichson also spoke about the importance of delayed viewing data, and that a significant ratings uptick transpires “once we extend the window to 35 days.”

Over the top became an essential part of the conversation. Nielsen found that around 56 percent of U.S. TV households have a streaming service, a video game console (with internet) or an internet-enabled smart TV.

In terms of streaming service use, Netflix accounted for 46 percent of the time spent streaming over five weeks from mid-January to mid-February. YouTube was next at 15 percent, Hulu at 8 percent, Amazon at 4 percent and the remaining time was spent on various other services, known or unknown.

Nielsen’s svp of product leadership Jessica Hogue dove into the Total Audience Measurement framework, including the highly-publicized Total Content Ratings metric, which combines data from four different Nielsen solutions: Nielsen TV ratings, VOD content ratings, digital in TV ratings and digital content ratings into one massive metric.

According to Nielsen, CBS’s entertainment series averaged nearly 13.4 million viewers this past quarter on a live-plus-35-day basis. That’s 54 percent audience growth from the original live-plus-same-day total viewer average, and 15 percent up from the live-plus-seven-day average.

TV’s most-watched comedy, The Big Bang Theory, saw a 67 percent audience increase from live-plus-same-day data to live-plus-35-day. NCIS (up 43 percent) and new series Bull (up 56 percent) also posted significant audience increases after taking the TCR metric into account.

Nielsen Total Content Ratings also show that a number of series on Turner, including TBS’s People of Earth and Search Party, have drawn more video on demand viewing over time. That’s beneficial to Turner, considering the VOD viewer tends to be younger and more affluent than your typical live or live-plus-three-day TV viewer.

The company also talked about its new National Out-of-Home National Reporting service. ESPN was the first network to sign up for the service, and the network has seen its average audience grow by 9 percent with the new data. According to Hogue, the out-of-home service shows “a younger, female-skewing audience,” is also tuning into ESPN.

All in all, Nielsen provided a sunny outlook during the presentation amid all of the conflict surrounding Nielsen ratings these days. They feel as though their data mix provides something for everyone. For example, ESPN has a demand for live and out-of-home viewing information, while broadcast networks are more interested in video on demand and DVR data for their scripted programming. It remains to be seen whether the broadcast networks are sunny about Nielsen’s advancements as the company itself is.