While Aussie networks can be ‘creative’ with their coding of shows with OzTAM, I don’t think anybody has yet sunk to this low that’s been attempted in the US.
American networks have been caught out deliberately misspelling the titles of their shows in order to avoid low ratings.
As The Verge reports, over the Memorial Day weekend, NBC aired NBC Nitely News instead of its usual NBC Nightly News so the holiday drop in viewership didn’t affect its ratings standing. Nielsen’s automated system counted that misspelled show as an entirely different program. By doing this, NBC managed to actually gain ratings against its main competitor: ABC World News Tonight.
NBC apparently misspelled its shows 14 times since the start of the 2016 to 2017 TV season, and it’s not the only network to pull this tactic. This season, ABC did so seven times with its Wrld New Tonite, while CBS replaced The CBS Evening News with CBS Evening Nws 12 times.
But media and advertisers have caught on.
In Australia networks haven’t resorted to typos as yet (maybe I shouldn’t be giving them any ideas) but we do see creative codings such as 60 Minutes Late instead of 60 Minutes, where the show has a later broadcast such as 9:30pm. This stops the annual average for the show being dragged down by a smaller audience.
They also employ a sneaky “overruns” trick, especially for premieres. That one sees a big show run late so that whatever follows can benefit from those numbers the next morning when media are writing the headlines. By the time everything is adjusted, the story is also done and dusted.
This week Nine cut up The Voice grand final into 3 segments to help The Winner Announced track high. Whilst OzTAM lets these tactics go on, there is really no end in sight.