Total People v Demographics

When it comes to ratings, most media (including this site) report Total People figures rather than Demographics.

As we all know, it’s Demos that particularly interest advertisers.

Unfortunately no one network supplies ratings figures to media with comprehensive Total and Demographic figures with show titles. Logically, they report figures that best reflect their target audience, along with lots of creativity and  lovely adjectives to accompany them.

Nine sends out the top ten daily shows for 25-54 and 16-39, but not 18-49 or Total People.

Seven sends out the top shows in Total People plus some demographics for their own shows.

TEN used to send out figures for 6pm-10:30pm (daily ratings shares are until midnight), but that was many moons ago…now it’s hard to hear anything.

So if the networks want Demographics reported in the media, they need to be consistent with what they supply: All Demos & Total People/ 6pm-midnight / every day. Simple.

But in the interests of fair play, here is a quote from Nine’s recent newsletter to advertisers about the value of Demographics over Total People, including a little dig at the wider media.


….throughout 2008, Nine has delivered on this commitment, with a particular focus on People 25-54.

But why 25-54s? Why has Nine prioritised this demographic over all others when historically, and still in mainstream media, Total People wins are what is widely reported.

The problem with a Total People measure is that advertisers do not target ads to the entire population, there is a specific demographic for each campaign and therefore measuring a networks performance on All People does not provide advertisers a true reflection of their return on investment.

The Total People audience is also heavily skewed by People 55+, who represent only a small portion of advertising dollars. The influence of these older viewers can deliver mass exposure to an advertiser, yet fail to reach as many targeted key demographic audiences.

The 25-54 demographic is the most sought-after target for advertisers in Australia and also represents the bulls-eye of Nines demographic strategy with Nine also focusing on 18-49s, 16-39s and GB+Child. People 25-54 provides a solid, single indicator for these other key buying demographics with 78% of 18-49s and 59% of GBs falling within the 25-54 bracket.

GB = Grocery Buyers.


  1. I agree that they are alienating their important demos, but tv ratings aren’t designed to account for torrent views, and dvr viewing is practically meaningless to advertisers. It is primarily for live tv and that is what it measures and displays, regardless of changing entertainment patterns. I believe the ratings boxes to be fairly accurate through my own research, sadly some of the high rating shows just don’t deserve the high figures they are getting. Again, just because i or anybody doesn’t know any ‘oztam’ or ‘neilson’ families doesn’t mean the sample is insignificant. But they are digging their own graves reacting so swiftly to these ratings, and any other deceiving means of holding on to their audience.

  2. Benno: Yes, I completely understand what you are saying … but you are still avoiding the big point that these figures, so easily manipulated to make a point, no longer reflect the viewing choices of the public …Us, the ones the advertisers are targeting .. and so any ongoing discussion around these figures and the current way of gathering “ratings” is totaly innaccurate and the whole silly damn war is totally pointless …

    It is absolutely insane that so much money and so many careers are decided by this outdated and inaccurate system … again, does anyone out there actually have a rating box in their house and can they say that it gives the ratings company an accurate picture of their viewing choices???

    This is all just lame excuses for alienating us .. the once loyal viewers who have had a gut full and gone elsewhere … perhaps advertisers should spend their money on the Bittorrent sites instead???? How simple it is to see there what is popular and what is not without any of the crap!


  3. It’s never that simple Jerome, as they need both types of shows to please different advertiser needs. But it is about the relative scarcity of younger viewers which means that it costs more to advertise to a younger than older audience. That is why i don’t think house is doing as badly as everyone thinks. Having said that, its total people has dropped significantly.

  4. i dunno, i agree that demos are important but i still think totals should take priority
    for example, if you had 2 shows

    1: 600k young + 100k old = 700 total people
    2: 500k young + 600k old = 1100 total

    (young directed shows usually have bad totals)
    pretend they were heroes and bones, although one has a few less good demos wouldn’t you rather sacrifice a few young to please heaps of others. as opposed to please a few young and abandon the rest

    anyway just my opinion

  5. Jezza of the city

    These figure are all very well, but if 9 continues to alienate, its demographic and total viewers with its botched scheduling and turgid programs people aint gonna watch.
    A ninety per cent share of 10 people is only 9 people. The younger gen are turning away from the networks cos they don’t wanna be treated like a piece of [email protected]

  6. Jack, the reason i and many more keep emphasising demos, particularly younger ones is becuase of 7’s blatant egotistic actions, as well as the other networks wanting to be number 1 in total people. Getting lots of older people to watch tv is easy, and yes people are going to the internet to get their shows, which is why these younger demos are more valuable. When 7 says that they get rid of a show like heroes which, assuming the demos are similar to the states, does really well, and replace it with something that skews older just so they can claim the total people prize, that is why demos matter. That is why seven has so many shows that seemingly target people 10 years past retirement, just so they can claim that ‘crown’.

  7. My god … are you people speaking a foreign language??
    I understand what you are saying but this just highlights that the decisions made by Networks have nothing to do with what their once loyal viewers want to see and is only about what spin they can put on the inaccurate ratings results to pacify advertisers. A perfect match really … advertising is basically about convincing everyone to swallow their lies and the Networks live and die on a bunch of lies!

    I fit firmly in the chosen demographic, no matter which way you measure it and I say very loudly and clearly that the networks (apart from 7) fail to meet my viewing needs dramatically and all the advertising they show has no impact on me at all. This is why so many of us choose to ignore the Networks and the wasted advertising dollars and just download what we want to watch when we want!

    All this discussion still fails to acknowledge that the “audience” is leaving the Networks because of their treatment of us and still not accounting for the majority of the audience that record what they choose to watch and view it later.

    You are all living in Oz …Click your heels together three times and get back to Kansas people … the world has changed and the networks and advertisers are living in the past.


  8. This article is very relevant because II was just reading the U.S. ratings this morning at and here was their opening paragraph for Tuesday’s ratings:

    “While we do love seeing the total viewer numbers, increasingly it’s as meaningless as DVR numbers. It’s used for PR, chest-thumping and bragging rights — and CBS can say it’s “America’s Most Watched Network”, last night it certainly was. But consider in the important age demographics NBC with two hours of The Biggest Loser and an hour of Law & Order: SVU tied CBS among 18-49 year olds and beat it outright among 18-34 year olds even though CBS had almost twice as many viewers.”

    I think that all media in Australia should be putting equal emphasis on the 18-49 demographic and total people results when reporting ratings. As is said in the above paragraph, total people numbers are nice for a bit of chest thumping, but really mean nothing to advertisers…which is why ratings exist in the first place.

  9. It’s that demo that’s now keeping Seven in front of Nine. And benno 18-49 may work for the states but I read that 25-54 accounts for 80% of all advertising $$ so I reckon that is our key demo although 18-49 wouldn’t be far behind.

    And ta David I always wondered what GB stood for!

  10. This is probably the reason some shows with low numbers are kept on while other with the same or higher overall numbers are cut, the demographics are good or better then the total numbers reflect.

  11. Interesting. I agree that mainstream media won’t pick up on it until they are consistent. As 18-49 seems to be a good standard, and recognised in the US by many viewers, then this should be the prime one they send out, even though they may target other demos. I go onto a US ratings website, and see comments saying that family guy or simpsons did extremely well, when it only had 40% or so of the total people compared to something like desperate housewives. All about demos. That is what is keeping shows like heroes alive.

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