TV’s Ratings ‘Blindspot’: Look What Traditional Measurement Misses

blindspot episode 7 Jaimie Alexander as
Courtesy of Giovanni Rufino/NBC

Get a load of just how complicated–and concerning–TV ratings are getting.

NBC Universal research chief Alan Wurtzel provided a snapshot of viewing patterns for the season premiere of the new NBC series “Blindspot,” illuminating how big a portion of the audience goes unmonetized across platforms beyond the initial airdate.

Wurtzel shared data provided by Nielsen’s custom multi-platform measurement of a 28-day period following the episode with the caveat that the research is so preliminary that firm conclusions can’t yet to be drawn. “This is a teaser, but not an insight,” he said at Variety’s Big Data Summit last week.

Source: NMR, P18-49, 9/21/15-10/18/15
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While the episode drew a 4.96 rating among viewers 18-49 across the seven-day period constituting the traditional Nielsen measurement across live, DVR and VOD, that number grows to 6.76 when an additional three weeks that would otherwise go unaccounted for is measured. That additional viewing is on post-third-day VOD as well as four full weeks of data from connected devices like Roku and gaming consoles (OTT).

“That 1.8 accounts for 27% of the viewing to that episode, so it’s not an insignificant number,” said Wurtzel.

However, that 1.8 doesn’t even account for all of the missed viewing; Nielsen’s custom measurement–not to be confused with its upcoming Total Audience Measurement tool–doesn’t monitor DVR past seven days or any viewing on non-TV screens like iPads. Those sources, which would be monitored under Total Audience Measurement, could yield as much as an additional full rating point by Wurtzel’s estimate, bringing “Blindspot’s” rating as high as a 7.6.

When those viewing patterns are examined through the lens of thinner demographic slices, an even more worrisome trend develops. The modes of viewing outside Nielsen’s traditional measurement area are where the highest concentration of younger viewers occur; more than half the OTT audience is under the age of 34, compared with the 16% in the demo that watch live.

Source: NMR, P18-49, 9/21/15-10/18/15
Click image for large preview

The same viewer leakage is apparent in data from a different measurement service, Symphony Advanced Media, which looks at everything Nielsen does but also adds smartphones, tablets and PCs. NBC measured viewing across nine of its series over 35 days with Symphony and found that one-quarter of the viewing in the 18-34 demographic falls outside traditional measurement.

Source: Only includes programs with 35 day data collection. This includes: Best Time Ever with NPH, Blindspot, Chicago PD, Heroes Reborn, L&O: SVU, The Blacklist, The Carmichael Show, The Player, The Voice. SymphonyAM VideoPulse. A18-34. Viewing 9.21 – 10.18.15. Airing dates 9.21 – 10.4.
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Again, Wurtzel cautioned these are preliminary findings, but if taken as any indication of the reality of audience consumption, there’s little doubt declining ratings aren’t simply a matter of viewers decamping for Netflix.

That said, Wurtzel also shared some interesting data from Symphony, which captures cross-platform viewing via audio content recognition software, regarding Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” While the streaming services does not disclose ratings for any of its programming, Symphony offered a look at its strength relative to other broadcast and cable shows that aired the same week “OITNB” premiered its third season (June 12).

Consumption of any of the 13 “OITNB” episodes made available to binge managed a 1.12 rating in 18-49–more potent than any new episode of programming on cable but still below top broadcast fare.

Source: SymphonyAM VideoPulse. A18-49. Note: audience across airings of an episode are cumed.
Click Image for large preview

That said, while “OITNB” takes a sizable chunk of total-viewing share relative to the rest of TV in the weeks after premiere, it’s not a sustained impact: While “OITNB” commanded nearly a quarter of the TV audience the week of its premiere, that share falls back to pre-premiere levels several weeks later.

Said Wurtzel, “It’s early days but for the first time, we get a little bit of perspective of how Netflix is faring and how it’s cannibalizing or not traditional TV. We couldn’t do this six months ago, and now we can; we hope six months from now, it will be even better than now.”

Source: SymphonyAM VideoPulse.
Click Image for large preview

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  1. Nicholas P. Schiavone says:

    The “Blindspot” in so-called Traditional Measurement is the responsibility of Nielsen
    and Networks, like NBC, which have had 28 years to get the “Traditional” measurement to conform to current realities and business needs.
    However, both sides have played a duplicitous and damaging game that is a disservice to TV viewers and advertising sponsors.
    All of this madness is trumped, however, by NBC’s tacit support of Nielsen ultimate travesty: the expansion of Nielsen’s National Panel by fabricating forty percent (40%) of the national viewing data through a mathematical trick they call the VAM (Viewer Assignment Method).
    As far as I know, only one network researcher has spoken publicly in dissent Nielsen’s latest “quality” shortcut. Actually, Nielsen has redefined measurement quality to mean only stability … No accuracy or utility. Alas, accuracy (or validity) is a victim of Nielsen and the Networks efforts to go digital. For on 12.28,the Nielsen Ratings will become reliable. Reliably uncertain, that is, if not simply wrong.
    Dr. Wurtzel, What do you and Ms. Clarizio have to say about another fine mess you’ve gotten us into?
    Here is a disaster that everyone, except viewers and sponsors can delight in with Nielsen.
    Mr. Wallenstein, I hope you understand what NBC and Nielsen have concealed from you about the state of the state that they have craftily created.
    Alas, the fault is now in our TV measurement,
    but in our so-called TV researchers.


  2. This reinstates the point that people have not stopped watching TV–they are just watching through different means that the industry is only starting to adapt to.

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