CBS’s The Big Bang Theory bagged an additional 4.44 million viewers for the first 13 week of this TV season, in Total Content Ratings measuring viewing live plus 35 days across multiple viewing platforms including VOD, TV and DVR. That’s 22% better than the comedy series’ Live + 7 Day total viewer stats for the season.
Through week 13 of this TV season, CBS’s primetime averaged 13.4 million viewers on a TCR Live + 35 day basis – a gain of nearly 1.8M viewers, or 15%, compared to Live + 7 viewing that had become industry standard; it’s a 54% spike compared to Live + Same Day viewing.
Nielsen has been sending the stats since the season started, but networks were not allowed to report them or use them until the start of March.
CBS is the only broadcast network to issue TCR Live + 35 stats today; the other broadcast networks refrained or don’t subscribe to the stats. In December, NBCUniversal sent a letter to Nielsen warning it had “deep concerns” that Total Content Ratings (TCR), which also would add ratings for digital viewing of TV shows to the current numbers, were “not ready for release.” the Comcast-owned company told Nielsen in a letter. The complaint from the Comcast-owned company was considered significant, given that networks have wanted the change as they try to persuade advertisers that they’re still a good buy at a time when traditional ratings are declining.
NBCU’s letter, from Advertising Sales and Client Partnerships Chairman Linda Yaccarino, said TCR is “far from meeting” requirements that it offer “a reasonable degree of accuracy and transparency” — making its release “premature” and “irresponsible.”
“Some say, ‘something is better than nothing’,” Yaccarino writes. “We disagree. Bad, inaccurate and misleading data is far worse than no data at all.”
Poltrack notes CBS did not include Nielsen’s digital tabulations which, he agreed, are a work in progress; those digital viewing stats, he forecast, “will add another couple of percent to the total.”
TCR data does not include commercial minutes, which tend to be lower rated. Stripping out commercial minutes automatically boosts TCR ratings compared to the Live + 7 ratings that networks have been reporting the past few seasons. It also makes the new stats less relevant to advertisers, some critics say.
But proponents argue the TCR data is of value to a network brokering licensing and international deals. And Poltrack argues the data is important from a cultural perspective.
“It does address the perception, that people are watching less television in general,” Poltrack said, noting the data CBS issued today shows viewing of the network’s entertainment series exceeding live viewing 15 years ago. And that does affect advertising, Polatrack insisted, in that there is a misconception among some advertisers’ decision makers that they should “spend more money on digital because people are not watching television.”
“That impacts what advertisers think about the relevance of our programming and what Wall Street thinks about the potential of our business and what the public thinks about the medium itself. We want consumers to think they’re part of something that is culturally important, not something that is culturally waning.”