Does the Time Warner CEO need a refresher in the difference between TV “viewers” and “ratings”? It couldn’t hurt after he mistakenly confused the two in a comment to analysts on Wednesday that Starz challenged. Jeff Bewkes wanted to demonstrate that Cinemax — usually overshadowed by HBO — is an “underappreciated asset.” To drive home the point he added: “In 2013, we actually had more viewing at Cinemax than at Starz and basically, the same viewing at Cinemax as at Showtime.” The problem? “He meant ‘ratings,’ not ‘viewership’,” a company spokesman tells me. The error is meaningful: Starz is in more households than Cinemax, and usually handily beats the Time Warner channel in the number of eyeballs it attracts. For example, Starz averaged 232,000 live-plus-same-day viewers last year vs. 158,000 for Cinemax, according to Nielsen data supplied by Starz. Bewkes’ initial “viewership” claim “is not substantiated when examined through the lens of all accepted audience measurement standards,” Starz says. Nielsen data show that “Starz bested Cinemax in households and in total viewers P2+ for total day, in prime time, in live-only viewing, and in every live+DVR measure, both for the flagship Starz network and the multiplex channels.” Easy to see why Time Warner prefers to look instead at ratings, the percentage of potential audience that tunes in. The Cinemax-brand channels collectively had a 1.0 total day rating in 2013 vs a 0.9 for the Starz-owned equivalents, HBO data show. The main channels — Cinemax and Starz — were basically tied at 0.4.
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