Viewer count on T.V shows?

How the hell does the broadcaster or whoever know how many people watched a certain tv show or program, and does it get a viewer count if u watched half of the show?? im confused, I've always wanted to know this, i don't get it...when I was younger I used to think the show had a camera watching me to see what I was watching lol

1 Answer

  • Ben
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Basically there is a large focus group sample that is studied, and they are carefully selected to represent the rest of the population.

    In total there are about 5,000 participants in the study (this is for the U.S. but Canada and other countries will do the same thing with appropriate sample sizes). A monitoring device is installed on each TV/set-top box in the participants' houses that monitors when the TV is on and what channel it is tuned to.

    Each family member of each household is given a separate remote control that they use to 'check-in' and 'check-out' when they begin and stop watching a TV show.

    All this information is recorded by the monitoring device on the TV and sent back to the ratings company on a daily (nightly) basis.

    This allows us to get a good sense of what percentage of the population is watching a TV show and it also helps break-down the demographic to see exactly who is watching the show (e.g. kids, teens, young adults, older adults, etc.)

    The ratings aren't entirely accurate though. For example, if for some reason the focus group decided to get together and refuse to watch a particular show.. even if that show got 50 million viewers, the ratings might show that it only got a 1,000 viewers for example because the majority of the participants in the study did not watch the show because they were in protest. In this case, the study group is not a good sample of the population.

    If the study group is not a good sample and representation of the population, there is a major problem. If for example, there are two times more kids in the study than there are in the actual population, the ratings will show inflated numbers for kids and general programming, and underestimated numbers for prime-time and late-night shows. In the same way, if there are an unusually large number of sports fans in the study, sports shows will have inflated ratings.

    There is also the issue that people might choose not to watch things that they would otherwise watch if they were not being monitored. For example, shows that are a bit 'too hot for tv' might have underestimated ratings along with shows that people might feel awkward watching around family friends (either because of mature content or because you would feel embarrassed if your friends/family knew you watched them).

    Another problem with the studies is people may forget to check-in or check-out with their remotes, so some people may not be recorded even though they watch the show. Or for example, a participant might fall asleep and inflate the ratings on an infomercial or late-night talk show they don't normally watch.

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