Nets using 'new math' to calculate viewer stats
Numbers don’t lie — except in Hollywood.In a town known for its creative math, it’s never much of a shock to hear that someone’s fudged the numbers just a little. But in recent weeks, network promotion execs have taken the art of spinning stats to a whole new level. The most recent wave of “new math” started during last month’s Super Bowl. Hoping to create some heat for new drama “House,” Fox ran an ad trumpeting the claim that “40 millions have made ‘House’ a hit.” To which most TV insiders watching responded, “Huh?” At the time, “House” was averaging a modest 7 million viewers per week. Critics loved it, and it was growing substantially from its lead-in — but no single episode ever approached the 40 million number. Turns out Fox had come up with 40 million by estimating how many people had watched the show on a cumulative basis since its November premiere. Even if someone only watched one episode for 10 minutes, it counted. The floodgates soon opened:
- CBS, irritated by Fox’s positioning, decided to start touting the fact that “more than 100 million viewers” have made “CSI” TV’s top-rated show.
- A few days later, ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson, flabbergasted by Fox’s funny numbers s, upped the ante further. He ordered ads hyping the 150 million-plus fans tuning in each week to watch “Desperate Housewives” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
- Cablers have joined the fray, too. Last week, E! ran a radio spot breathlessly urging folks to discover why “millions and millions of viewers” have made its “Dr. 90210” reality skein a success.