Following the footsteps of sister network FX and others on the cable side, Fox on Friday became the first broadcast network to announce that it will no longer provide “live plus same-day” ratings information to the press. Those Nielsen numbers will still be available from other outlets, but it’s another indication that the ratings game has changed.
In an internal email sent to Fox staff members that was obtained by Variety (see below), Fox network chiefs Gary Newman and Dana Walden said the same-day numbers “don’t reflect how we monetize our content,” and that they hoped to “move the ratings conversation into the future.” The network noted that more than one-third of the weekly viewing by adults 18-49 is done outside the same-day window, and that the network had seven shows currently on the air that double (or more than double) their same-day audience across platforms this season.
Fox has been sending “same-day” ratings highlights to the press for years, but that will cease for all entertainment programming (other than live events) starting Monday. Last season it became the first network to stop distributing weekly ratings highlights. Variety this fall became the first media outlet to regularly report weekly “live plus-3” program rankings and trends.
In July 2014, FX was the first network to announce that it would not release ratings highlights the day after a telecast. “We believe they grossly mischaracterize the actual audience due to the multiple data streams and platforms,” said FX’s John Solberg at the time. “Therefore, our first acknowledgement of any ratings will be on a Live+3 basis and beyond.”
Premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime have adopted the strategy as well. All of the NBC cable networks, including USA and Bravo, hopped aboard earlier this year.
Fox hasn’t had a lot to crow about on the ratings front this fall — megahit “Empire” being a major exception — but the network is up 14% year over year in multi-platform audience. And in Live+7, it’s the only network that is on par with last year.
We are making a significant change to the way we communicate the performance of our shows. Beginning Monday, you will no longer receive Live + Same Day Nielsen ratings. No “fast nationals,” no “overnights,” “no prelims.” There will no longer be THAT email in your inbox every morning at 8AM, because THAT email is no longer relevant.
The connections between viewers and our shows today are more complex and, in many ways, deeper than ever – but they no longer only happen overnight. So why do we, as an industry, wake up every morning and talk about those Live + Same Day numbers?
This has to stop. It’s time for us to “walk the walk” and change the conversation. The Live + Same Day rating does not reflect the way people are watching our series. It leaves out the vast majority of fans who choose to watch on DVRs, and virtually ignores those who stream our shows or watch on demand. And those viewers matter: Within a 7-day period, more than one-third of the broadcast 18-49 audience watches after the same-day window. Over 30 days, seven of our FOX series either double or more than double their same-day audience across platforms. And if you compare our total multiplatform audience this season versus last, we are up +14%.
The same-day numbers also do not reflect how we monetize our content. Half of our TV ad inventory is sold on a C7 basis, and we monetize our content on digital platforms like FOX NOW and Hulu, and through TrueX sponsorships – none of which are included in Nielsen’s fast nationals.
Every day, our creators, and their casts and crews, put their hearts and souls into making their shows as original and unforgettable as possible. And these creators deserve to work at a company that has a contemporary understanding of who their audience is and how their shows are watched.
Looking ahead, we’re going to stop circulating the Nielsen Live + Same Day ratings, both internally and to press. We will not acknowledge them for any programming other than live events. We know that the daily external dialogue isn’t going to change right away, but internally, we can kick things off by shifting our own mindsets toward a more holistic measure. Will Somers will follow up shortly to lay out what you can expect from the research team moving forward.
FOX is a company that has always prided itself on being forward-thinking…and nothing could be more antiquated than a decades-old measurement that reflects only a portion of our audience.
So together, let’s move the ratings conversation into the future. Here we go!
Gary and Dana