ABC Follows Fox (4 Years Later) in Swearing Off ‘Live + Same Day’ TV Ratings

Starting tomorrow, ABC will begin reporting audience measurement at the three-day delayed-viewing mark

ABC/Image Group LA

ABC has joined Fox in swearing off Nielsen’s “Live + Same Day” ratings, a measurement system that in the days of DVRs, many consider to be outdated.

On Tuesday, the Disney-owned broadcast network will begin its approach to reporting ratings at the three-days delayed-viewing mark– except for when it comes to live programming, that is. In other words, ABC would (and will still) share Live + Same Day numbers for programming like ABC’s recent “The Little Mermaid Live” and its annual NBA Finals games, among others.

It probably comes as no surprise that ABC, like Fox in 2015, generally does not light the world on fire in L+SD ratings. As a matter of fact, ABC currently ranks last among the Big 4 broadcast networks in Live + Same Day ratings. Season-to-date, Fox is in first, NBC is second, CBS is third and ABC is fourth.

“This move aligns us with how we evaluate the comprehensive performance of our shows, how we monetize our business and how our audience chooses to consume our content,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said Monday in a memo explaining the shift in strategy to her staff. “People used to plan their lives around television, now they plan television around their lives.”

She’s not wrong: With each passing television season, Live + Same Day ratings lose a little more of their value as DVR, on-demand and binge-viewing take over. But they’re still the earliest snapshot we have into a show’s performance, which is why many publications like TheWrap still report them for the broadcast networks each morning.

Below is the note Burke sent to her staff on Monday announcing the changes.

Dear Team:

Every day we deliver distinctive, high-quality programming from world-class creative partners on our powerful linear network, support it with breakthrough marketing, and distribute it across digital platforms. Our viewers respond by watching, talking and posting, generating word of mouth that drives more watching (and more conversation) for days and weeks beyond the original broadcast.

As viewership has evolved, so too has our ability to capture and monetize it, from C3 to C7 all the way to Multiplatform 35-day. And going forward, that will be reflected in how we report it internally and externally. Starting tomorrow, we will no longer be reporting Live+Same Day ratings. The only exception will be live programming. This move aligns us with how we evaluate the comprehensive performance of our shows, how we monetize our business and how our audience chooses to consume our content. People used to plan their lives around television, now they plan television around their lives.

The first stream we’ll be looking at is L3, followed by L7 and MP35.

Today we received our first week of MP35. They tell a very positive story. Here are some highlights among Adults 18-49:

  • Across our schedule, nearly all of our shows at least tripled their audience versus LSD. This delayed viewership is up 30% vs. last year and up 56% vs. the year prior.
  • Including our #1 drama and our #1 comedy,  eight of our programs grew or held versus their year-ago averages in MP35: “Grey’s Anatomy,”Modern Family,” “Black-ish,” “Bless this Mess,” “American Housewife,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Shark Tank” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” This follows the YOY gains for our #1 unscripted franchise “The Bachelor” (+19%) and this summer’s “The Bachelorette” (+18%) and “Bachelor in Paradise” (+27%).
  • In L35, ABC has 10 of the top 30 programs, more than any other network (NBC 8, CBS 6, FOX 5, FX 1).
  • Of all new shows, “Stumptown” is the highest percent gainer (+157%) from LSD to L35, and in MP35 it  more than quadruples (+357%).

Bottom line? Our audience seeks out our content in massive numbers amidst incredible competition.

And speaking of the competition, though we don’t have access to their MP35 data, we do have their L35. In that measure, ABC has three of the Fall’s top five new programs – “Stumptown,” “Emergence” and “Mixed-ish” – and three of the top five scripted shows overall with “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Modern Family,” and “The Good Doctor.” And the other two – “This is Us” and “9-1-1″ – are produced by our sister studio for other networks, which means Walt Disney Television is home to the top five scripted programs in L35!

As a broadcast network, our job is to captivate our audience and create a customer experience that makes sense for today’s world – that means allowing people to watch how they want, where they want and most importantly, WHEN they want.  So our reporting will now align with our business and most importantly, our consumer.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Elizabeth Sloan in Consumer Insights.


To be clear, Nielsen will still measure ABC’s Live + Same Day ratings, and clients will receive the information. Outlets like TheWrap will continue to report that information. ABC will just not be forthcoming with those numbers internally or externally anymore, and likely hopes others follow suit.

Burke’s announcement comes on the eve of her parent company’s Disney+ launch. The highly anticipated streaming service will be available tomorrow.

Disney+ will not be Nielsen rated — at least, not immediately. The ratings currency company has been ramping up its measurement of streaming services, whether they like it or not.