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TV Ratings 101: The Very Basics

The TV Ratings Guide has grown to hold a very loyal group of ratings followers who have learned about ratings in other ways and flocked over here for the unique community and articles. But something we have yet to do, at least since the transition to Blogspot in May of last year, was attempt to introduce TV ratings to more people. Hopefully by reading this, you will understand the very basics and eventually join our community.

What's In a Number?
The demo to live by when it comes to broadcast television networks (a.k.a. ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC) is the C3 demo; or, the percentage of adults between the ages of 18 and 49 are watching the commercials of a given program within a three day period of the show airing. Since the C3 ratings are rarely released to the public, we turn to the A18-49 L+SD demographic; or rather, the percentage of adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are watching the commercials of a given show either live or on the same day. Networks and advertisers are not naive, they know you are skipping the commercials if you can.

So, It All Has to Do With The Commercials, Then?
Yes. If you are a Nielsen viewer (which means you have one of those boxes that Nielsen can track your viewing habits), watching the commercials is what matters. Advertisers such as fast food companies, car dealerships, you name it, pay a premium to get a spot during a given program. A show's ratings by and large determine how much the network will charge for a spot; lower-rated veteran shows tend to be cheap to advertise on, while shows that have higher ratings and/or reach another coveted demo (such as being well-liked by the rich or the young, both hard demos to get) tend to charge more for an advertising spot. When it comes down to it, money is what matters. Most shows tend to get more profitable when they reach streaming deals and syndication deals. We can cover that later.

Let's Dissect A Rating
What it says: Celebrity Family Feud got a 1.5 A18-49 L+SD
What it means: 1.5% of the population between the ages of 18 and 49 watched an episode of Celebrity Family Feud either live or on the same day that it aired. Considering it's not only one of ABC's highest-rated summer shows, but also a time slot improvement over what airs there in the regular season, it's safe to assume there will be another season.

So, that's TV ratings for you in a nutshell. In general it's more complicated, but if you are just starting to learn, this is more or less what you need to know. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!