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ESPN Says It Will Drop Overnight Ratings

ESPN, as expected, said Friday it will devote less attention to so-called “overnight” ratings for many of the live sports broadcasts it televises every week, part of a broader industry move away from using an early tabulation of local markets as a proxy for daily consumer TV viewing.

Simply put, changes in the way Nielsen measures audiences in local markets as of October 3 mean the new measures will not be directly comparable to prior-year measures. Nielsen intends to add out of home viewership to the overnight measures, but will include tabulations of fewer national markets. As such, said Cary Meyers, ESPN’s senior vice president of fan and media intelligence, in a web post Friday, “what you have known as ‘overnight ratings’ will no longer exist in the form we’ve come to know them.

The move comes as many TV networks are working to devise different ways of counting their audiences. With more people watching streaming video on mobile screens, traditional TV audiences are smaller than they have been. As a result, media companies are placing more emphasis on counting up specific audiences, rather than using a rating, which is a proxy for the percentage of the overall audience deciding to tune in. Local stations have vowed to move to a counting of impressions in 2020, with NBCUniversal and Hearst stations already making that move. Meanwhile, more networks intend to count audiences viewing TV from “out of home” locations, such as offices, bars, and other venues, in the next TV season.

ESPN’s Meyers indicated other sports leagues and TV networks would also move away from use of overnight ratings.

Under the new system, the local “overnights” won’t be available until the early afternoon, instead of 8:30 a.m. Eastern, as has been the tradition. What’s more, the national ratings, often considered more reliable, will continue to be released at about 4 p.m.





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