Changes in effect for first full season

The upcoming television season will mark the first full one in which all syndicated shows are uniquely measured by Nielsen’s gross average audience, or GAA, ratings.

At the end of last March, Nielsen changed its ratings metric so that every airing of every episode of a show would be counted in weekly and season-to-date ratings. For example, CBS Television Distribution’s “Judge Judy” runs across the country in back-to-back half-hours. Prior to the change, “Judy’s” ratings were reported to syndicators and advertisers both as GAA and as average audience — or AA — ratings. GAA ratings incorporated all viewers of all episodes, while AA counted only unique viewers. Media reported a show’s performance based on its AA rating because that more accurately compared double-run shows to those with only single runs, even though advertisers relied on the GAA ratings. In a multiplatform world, the number of runs becomes irrelevant. Viewers have plenty of opportunities to see shows, and advertisers want all of those viewers to be counted.

Nielsen’s tweak to the ratings metrics — something for which syndicators have been lobbying for years — immediately gave several shows the appearance of a huge ratings boost.

“Judge Judy,” for example, earned a 6.4 GAA household rating in the week ending Aug. 21. Last year at this time, the show turned in a 4.1 AA rating, which makes the change an improvement of 56%. While “Judy” is arguably syndication’s strongest program, it hasn’t actually added 56% more viewers, it’s just finally being given ratings credit for its total performance.

Other shows to benefit from Nielsen’s ratings tweak include Warner Bros.’ “Two and a Half Men,” up 35% year to year to a 6.0 due to the ratings change, while Twentieth’s “Family Guy” shows a 45% improvement to a 4.5. Debmar-Mercury’s “Family Feud” — now the third-highest-ranked gameshow behind CTD’s “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” — is up 53% to a 2.2 from last year’s 1.1, although a big part of that bump is attributable to the arrival of new host Steve Harvey.

All double-run shows, however, did not benefit. NBCUniversal’s “Maury,” “Jerry Springer” and “Steve Wilkos” all frequently play in multiple runs, but of those three conflict talkers, only “Maury” showed an increase, up 15% year over year for the week ended Aug. 21. “Jerry Springer” and “Steve Wilkos,” meanwhile, are down 7% and 8%, respectively, from last summer.

Although the new season starts Sept. 12, it won’t be until next April that shows’ year-to-year performance can be compared on an apples-to-apples basis.

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