Ratings Rant: Big Losses for Networks, Big Questions for Nielsen

A slew of shows took a tumble last night for no apparent reason.

Sometimes you wonder whether Nielsen shouldn’t just change its name to WTF Ratings.

Today is one of those days. According to preliminary fast national numbers from the ratings monopoly, most of the networks saw massive declines on Wednesday night, with ABC’s new comedies taking the biggest hit.

So even though it’s getting darker earlier, and in many places it’s getting colder (and this more TV-friendly), and the buzz on many shows is positive… in Nielsen’s world, millions of viewers just simply choose to abandon shows on a week-to-week basis?

Well, I’m a journalist, which means I’m awful at math. And, possibly, logic. So maybe there’s some reasonable explanation for the declines.

But when you also consider the fact that DVRs are now in one-third of homes, and data from said recorders now shows many series going way up when their usage is factored in, it makes you wonder why so much attention is being paid to next-day Nielsen data. The numbers this blog and so many other media outlets disseminate and dissect suddenly seem… almost irrelevant.

Here’s hoping the networks and advertisers speed up their plans to develop new ways of measuring viewership. Clearly, the industry needs to figure out a way to do things differently.

Anyway, in light of my little rant above, it doesn’t make sense for me to just move into a recitation of last night’s numbers.

If you still need your Nielsen fix, check out Variety ratings ace Rick Kissell’s report on the Wednesday stats here