Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Well, it's not my most amazing prediction to ever come to fruition, in fact, the writing was pretty much on the wall from the beginning, but it's official now, "American Idol", has finally fallen from #1 on the Neilsen ratings, for the first time in seven years. What beat it, you may be asking? Well, it wasn't "The Big Bang Theory," or "Modern Family," or "30 Rock," or anything really of substance, but it lost to NBC's "Sunday Night Football". Doesn't sound as shocking, surprising or big, but it's had an impact. It's already being reported that the deal that Jessica Sanchez, who finished second to Philllip Phillips this year on "...Idol", (And I still can't believe his parents named him that) won't be getting the same kind of 2nd place prize normally afforded to "American Idol" finishers. In the past, the 2nd place finisher would get way more prize money, plus a record contract of his/her own, that's not going to be given to her Sanchez this time. Not her fault, or "American Idol"'s actually, the show recieved less ratings, so naturally, the prizes which can and are subject to change according to most reality show contracts, are lessened. (The first time I remember seeing/hearing that was when on the first season of "Big Brother", [and the only one I ever tried to force myself to watch] the prize money went from a million to half a million dollars, for the winner! something which I would've been pissed at if I had to spend all that time in a house for money, but the ratings did suck, so....) That's a tough break for Ms. Sanchez, but she's only 17, and 2nd on "...Idol" has proven to not be too shabby. Adam Lambert, for instance just hit #1 on the Billboard charts the other week, becoming the first openly gay artist to have the honor, by the way, congratulations to him for that.

Anyway, back to the Neilsen, and what are we really looking at here? Yeah, "...Idol", falls to 2, not exactly a drastic fall from grace, but for them it might as well be, but it's not like NFL football earning big ratings is shocking or worth noting either, although one note came out of it that was interesting, NBC, because of football, actually jumped from 4th to 3th place, in the network battle for ratings, because of it, so they're officially out of the gutter for the first time since "Friends" went off the air. That's a minor achievement, but hardly an Earth-shattering one. For those who care about scripted TV, "NCIS" took home the #3 spot, the highest rated of the scripted series.  I'm not gonna defend "NCIS," it's a terrible cliched procedural of a TV show, with a popularity that is absolutely befuddling, but..., well are these show actually that popular? You know what, I'll get to that in a second, more importantly, why do we still compare these shows? Anyone else thinks it's odd that the number one Neilsen show has been shared by such divergent shows as "American Idol," NFL football, "Seinfeld," "ER," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The $64,000 Question," and "60 Minutes", to name a few. These shows aren't really comparable. Does the fact that Football beat out "American Idol," mean that less people want to see amatuer singing competitions or that more would rather see football, or has the "...Idol" audience simply decided that now prefer to watch a Cowboys game? All those questions are absurd and ridiculous. They don't compete with each other; they're not in the same genre, and people don't think like that anyway.

Look, anybody can look up the problems with the Neilsen ratings in numerous articles online, but the simple fact is that they are typically inaccurate. Does that mean more people actually watched "American Idol," or "NCIS," instead of football, not necessarily, but I know most of the shows that I watch, and that most of y friends watch, hardly ever correlate with the Neilsen ratings, and there seems to be less and less correlation, than ever before. Let me put this in perspective though, cause there are a few ways that this should be looked at. Number one, although they do keep statistics on cable and the networks have figures on internet downloads, and other alternative viewing methods, but Neilsen's doesn't consider that, and they certainly don't consider cable numbers. Especially pay cable channels like HBO and Showtime, at best, a show like "Boardwalk Empire," probably gets about a million viewers per episode according to Neilsen, and that's considered a hit for HBO. The reason is not because HBO doesn't have that many viewers, they have a lot more than that for most of their original programming, but because they don't have advertisements, which is the real key to the Neilsen ratings. Now, their was HBO, and a limited number of cable channels, in 1983, but most Americans still only had the three major networks, NBC, CBS and ABC at that time. Now, you're asking, why am I comparing this to 1983. Up until two years ago, the highest rated single TV program in American history was the final episode of "M*A*S*H", in 1983, depending on how you want to count, it had at least 105million viewers, and as many as 121million who watched it. The last two Super Bowls however, have both passed that number. The Colts/Saints Super Bowl broke that record. At least, that's how it looks, and if I were to point out that the majority of the highest rated programs in American history, according to viewership were Super Bowls, and other sporting events, you would think that would mean that this country, must really love watching sports, more than anything. It does technically have more viewers, but it only had 47% of the country watching it. Less than half of all televisions being watched at the moment of that Super Bowl, were actually watching the Super Bowl. Compared to the series finale of "M*A*S*H", where, 3 out of every 5 people in the country, 60% of the country, watched it that night, and that's just the whole show, the share of that viewing, is through the roof, over 75% of the country watched it at some point during the broadcast, and only an Oscar telecast has that number beat. (And that Oscars, that had a higher share, had only half the overall viewer ratings as "M*A*S*H".)

There's a couple obvious reasons for this. One, less options on TV; two, "M*A*S*H", like many Super Bowls, was a historic and culturally significant program, people wanted to see it, but third, and the key one, less people in the country back then. Let's do the math, 105million = 60% of America in 1983, = 175million people in America in 83. Now, Super Bowl, 112million < half of America, in 2010, let's guesstimate a bit here, 230million in America right now, and that actually feels light, it should be closer to 300 million, but let's go with 230. so, 21million saw the "Idol" finale this past year, their lowest rating ever, and BTW, no single "American Idol," is anywhere near the top of this list, none in the Top 50, so were looking at, fewer that 1/12 of America watched it, that number averages out over all there broadcasts this past year, so let's figure that, it could be, maybe half of that, watched every episode, so you get that average, realize that football beat it overall, and suddenly, I've turned maybe the two biggest passions in American history, NFL football and "American Idol," into programs with significant core cult following, only. The point being is that, it takes a lot fewer people to make a show a significant Neilsen hit than ever before. In fact, close followers of the networks have been showing less and less overall interest in the Neilsen ratings than ever before. They're still apart of the language of television however, and they're the critical aspect that determines a show's worth in terms of ad-dollars, so they have to continually be considered, as well as, rated. That's honestly, the only real reason that I'm reporting on them now. (Well, demographic analysis by the Neilsen's is also critical in determining a show's worth, that shouldn't be ignored either). Ratings have no effect on my TV viewing habits, but they do effect the program options I have to choose from. They can be read in about a million different ways. For instance, is a show winning it's time slot because it's a good show, or because the rest of the competition it's up against is lackluster and people watch something by default. Quick, what day and time does "NCIS" go on the air every week? Better question, what was it up against? Don't look at me, I have to look it up myself; I don't know it offhand. Considering I don't have the options of cable, I was probably either watching a rerun on a classic TV station like METV or AntennaTV, or not watching television at the time. I do know that "Modern Family," was often up against "American Idol," in their respective Wednesday time slots. It usually beat "Modern Family," but the next-day result show, struggled against "The Big Bang Theory," most weeks, although both beat "Community," which has a lesser, but an arguably more rabid fan base than both those shows, especially with key demographics. Does a good number against "...Idol" keep a show on the air, or does the show also need that cult fanbase, or possibly critical acclaim like Awards to stay on the air? That seems like a ridiculous question, but it's exactly the kinds of considerations that network executive and programmers have to consider, everyday. They don't particularly want to, but they do, so I have to as well. If I want to keep a show on the air, that I really like, I have to watch it, when it first airs, on TV. Until some system gets adapted that makes the Neilsen's system not just obsulete, (It already is obsolute), but also unnecessary, it will remain the main tool with with networks use to program. That really is the main point; if you like it, watch when it's on TV. Not on hulu, not on youtube, not TiVo'd for later, but when it's on TV. For whatever reason, the fans of NFL football, "American Idol," "NCIS," and other shows that top the Neilsen ratings, make it a point to watch their shows, when they're on the air. What that means to the networks, is that, the fans of that show are the most devoted to that show, (Not true), that they're more of the fans of that show, than other shows (That is somewhat true), and that they know, the audience will be there, so that advertisers can advertise during those shows, and they can make a lot of more money from the ads than other shows. (BINGO!)

So, whatever your favorite show's are, and you want to keep them on the air,  ( then, be sure to tune in, whenever it's on, whenever you can and everytime. (Well, if it's a good show. If you're favorite show is a piece of crap, than stop watching it, you're ruining TV for the rest of us. Watch your piece-of-crap shows on hulu.com)

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