Television Consumption Up But Traditional TV Ratings Down

Television watching is at an all-time high, however US broadcast networks are continuing to see a drop in their television ratings for the 2012 fall season. The trend, which is starting to get some executives worried, could put a hamper on the $70 billion television advertising industry, which networks rely on to provide programming to audiences.

Are TV ratings becoming inaccurate?

There does appear to be a silver lining to the argument of lower ratings, and executives are beginning to place the blame on the archaic Nielsen ratings system that is used in television today. They argue that the out-dated system does not accurately capture time-shift viewing, and that the industry needs to develop a new standard so that all viewed content is being tabulated accurately.

For broadcast executives the need for a new system is urgent, because utilizing the old and outdated system the numbers are starting to look grim. More than 10 percent of the 18-49 same-day viewing audience has disappeared compared to last season for FOX, ABC, and CBS. FOX has suffered the largest decline, with ratings that put the once dominant network in third place this fall.

“People are watching more programming than ever but they are increasingly time-shifting,” said Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS. “Because more and more people are absorbing content, and we’re going to get paid more and more.” His statement is echoed by executives at News Corp, Walt Disney, and Time Warner.

Nielsen on the other hand says that it is working diligently on new standards to capture television viewing whenever or wherever it occurs–no matter if it’s on a mobile device, a tablet or desktop computer or on the traditional in-home television set. In 2007 the industry made use of a new standard called Commercial Ratings, which measures viewership up to three days after original airings.

Today, television executives are pushing to get that period extended to a seven-day window.

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