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How TV Ratings Have Evolved

Ratings, ratings, ratings! You hear talk about ratings but what does it really mean and how do TV programs get rated? In a nutshell, ratings tell us how many people watch a particular show. The data can be broken down further, but typically will include age range and gender.Why does this matter? Ratings help advertisers to make decisions on what programs to advertise in. As an agency, we look at ratings data and individual program rates to decide which programs are most efficient for our clients and the demographic they are trying to reach- i.e. which programming will receive the most audience for the least amount of money. So, the accuracy and reliability of ratings data is very important to us.

Once upon a time, TV ratings data was compiled 100% by randomly chosen viewers filling out diaries and sending them via snail mail to a company that aggregated all the data. This system was full of inefficiencies and question marks. The data was directionally accurate, especially when compiled over time, but still full of holes. Fast forward to the digital age. With the help of technological advances (specifically a company called comScore), we now have access to data that is downloaded directly from set top cable and satellite receivers.This system is not perfect but is leaps and bounds better than the diary system. As a media buyer, this gives us much more accurate and much more timely data. Before digital data, we would wait months and months to see ratings data. Now, we can see how many people watched the Saturday Bison game on the following Tuesday.

With talk about TV and other traditional media dying, it is very helpful to have data showing us the actual viewership.This data arms us with the information to make confident decisions that we are getting the most bang for our clients’ buck!