Why Face the Nation Is Only Rated for Its First 30 Minutes

By Brian Flood 

TVNewser noticed that CBS’ Face the Nation with John Dickerson is now only airing its full hour contiguously in a little more than half the country. Last Sunday, the full hour was shown in  57.4 percent of the country. And because of that, CBS only measures the first half hour, which boosts its ratings (hour-long shows tend to have drop off, which brings down the average.)

One of the reasons for the decline is CBS’ commitment to the NFL, which causes the second half of FTN to lose about 20 percent of the nation during football season. One of the other reasons: syndicated programming is too much of a money maker for affiliates to pass up.

FTN first experimented with an hour-long show back in 2011. Then-CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and CBS News president David Rhodes made it a priority to gain the extra 30 minutes from local stations. In 2012, when CBS News announced FTN would permanently become an hour-long program, the network made it clear it would start off being rated as two separate half-hours, with the goal of eventually moving to the full hour rating. But that hasn’t happened yet, so  the network still uses only the first 30 minutes of FTN when comparing itself to hour-long rivals Meet the Press, This Week and FOX News Sunday.

But why would CBS change things now, with FTN consistently ranking as the No. 1 Sunday public affairs program in total viewers?

Last Sunday, the first 30 minutes averaged 3.7 million viewers but the second half only drew 1.97 million viewers. With that average it would come in third, behind Meet the Press and This Week.