Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Apparently, this is going to be the lowest-rated World Series in forty years, if you believe some of the media reports out there. According to TV by the Numbers contributor, Bill Gorman:
This year, I’m confident we’ll see the lowest average viewership of any World Series in the last 40 years (as far back as our data goes), lower than 2006 St. Louis Cardinals v. Detriot Tigers matchup which averaged 15.81 million viewers.
More doomsday predictions come from Bloomberg, CNBC (from personal fave, Darren Rovell), the New York Daily News (shocker since a certain AL East team isn't playing) and anyone else Google can conjure up in a search.

Sports, being the last bastion of 'DVR-proof' television content, are more scrutinized than ever before based on these Nielsen numbers. It seems as if not one game can go by without at least a passing mention of how well it fared in the ratings, whether in the national landscape or within a team's market. The rumblings about these statistics grow louder when leagues enter their postseasons as 'the games matter' and championships lie in the horizon of the few teams playing to earn them.

While a longer post has been edited, re-edited, left alone and re-visited, the questions below are begging for an immediate response.
  1. This being the most important of them all: Do you even know what ratings are? This isn't to be condescending or funny, but there is this assumed knowledge that the general public really knows what these numbers mean and how they are compiled. Personally, I wonder if some in the media themselves know what they mean, but that's another post for another time.

  2. Do the ratings even matter to you? Will the fact that two teams with far smaller followings compared to the Masters of the Sporting Universe affect how, or even if, you'll watch the Fall Classic?

  3. Is it odd or just plain crazy to say that this might be one of the best Series... ever?
When I caught Gorman's post, I was reminded of another media blog (MediaPost's TV Board) I ran into just a few hours earlier where the writer, Frank S. Foster, found himself in an argument about how these pesky numbers are contrived in the first place.

While not an official polling, this particular conversation is not atypical of those I routinely engage in. My experiences indicate that most reasonably educated people — even industry people — believe Nielsen counts viewers. How is this possible? If you look up the Times article to which my seatmate was referring, you will find the word estimates once, as in "according to Nielsen estimates." At the same time, you will find the number of viewers for a program listed fourteen times, as in "The CW's 'Gossip Girl' earned 3.3 million viewers."
While I can appreciate the sentiments of Bob Molinaro of the Virginian-Pilot, I would love to see responses from your perspective. That's what Scribe is meant to be about, despite relaying my thoughts.

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