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Peaks are now the new Average?

Peaks? Averages? Metro? Regional? Overruns? Split-coding? Networks have been getting very creative with their spin, in order to put their shows in the best possible light.

Network media releases have been getting very creative lately, in order to put their shows in the best possible light to media.

That’s what publicists are paid to do.

But it’s certainly keeping journos on their toes -which is also what they’re paid to do.

Everything is in the fine print these days, but here’s a bit of a snapshot of what’s been going on.

It’s not uncommon now to see a headline, and an opening sentence, that trumpets a show’s Peak, rather than its Average.

“The third Live Final of The Voice last night peaked with a Total People audience of 2.42 million viewers and an average of 1.98 million viewers across the 5 City Metro,” said a Nine release today.

“The National (5 City Metro and Regional) for The Voice saw the peak audience increase to 3.305 million and the average to 2.665 million viewers.”

The figures are correct based on Overnight data, but the industry standard for ratings remains a show’s Average in the 5 city metro (1.98m) not the Peak with regionals: 3.3m. Nine is not fudging the figures, but it does prefer to push the Peak instead of the Average.

TEN has been reporting its performance across two periods, “Early Evening is 17:00 – 20:00” and “Prime-time is 18:00 – 22:30.” Most releases compare Year on Year results. That means TEN’s data is compared to how they were travelling against such 2011 programming as 6PM with George Negus and TEN’s local news bulletins. Result? They’re on fire right now.

Rightly or wrongly, OzTAM deems 6pm – midnight as the goalposts for the numbers that make up daily shares.

Then there are the overruns. As many readers know, when Tricky Business or The Amazing Race don’t start on time because of The Voice, Titanic or whatever else is on, the Overnight numbers have to await later adjustment. That didn’t stop Nine from claiming Tricky Business peaked at 2.4m for its debut episode (in fact The Voice‘s overrun) and it didn’t top Seven from issuing corrective figures on their behalf either. Charming.

Nine’s weekly ratings report also notes Demo shares for the year based on Overnight data -not Consolidated (also known as Timeshifted). Seven and TEN releases meanwhile report those shares only on 6pm – 10:30pm -and Seven doesn’t bother to include ABC or SBS demos in their demos either. Sorry SBS, your ad spend can go jump.

And let’s not even get into the split-coding going on for The Project, State of Origin (haven’t you heard, it was three shows in one?) etc.

All of this clever numbers-crunching is usually considered fair game in the heady world of advertising, spin and promotion.

But it is getting more creative lately, and it is making it doubly tricky for journos trying to report to the public how networks and their shows are performing.

10 Responses

  1. @Craig – “… in the future when we all have smart TVs that can send data back to OzTAM to show them truly what is being watched”.
    There’s a great movie about that and Big Brother knowing all. It’s called “Things to Come”. Was made in 1936. Is on DVD.

  2. I’ve lived in the US, the UK and Canada and never did I experience such a publicised ratings system. I have no idea why whose winning and whose losing the ratings on a particular night makes it into the main stream press.

    Also I’ve never experienced a country who are so bitterly competitive when it comes to ratings. It’s like kids throwing sand at each other in a tiny sandbox.

  3. Its stupid if you ask me. Peak numbers are such a minute figure out of the time the show airs. Its ridiculous. If you ask me the networks are turning TV Ratings into a joke. There needs to be one standard here not 5 or 6. However while the networks own OzTAM nothing is going to change.

  4. What I find silly is in 2012 we still rely on a few households with ratings boxes that determine what we all watch, surely there is a more accurate way to measure a shows popularity. Maybe that will come in the future when we all have smart TVs that can send data back to OzTAM to show them truly what is being watched.

  5. David, I’ve often wondered why you don’t report more regional ratings numbers? I think you have in the past for like Masterchef final numbers, but it would be interesting to see figures more often

  6. All the channels should be forced into set standards for ratings, not just making up their own times based on what looks best.

    That’s the same as if the government only reported figures for the economy when it was up, ignoring any downturns because they “fall outside the reporting period”!?! Unfair.

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