Caller admits to faking viewers for the sake of ratings

"Grant" has a ratings box, but admits he magically adds extra viewers for shows he thinks deserve it.

2014-07-28_1555Television is all about the numbers: the ratings, the shares, the revenue, the demos.

So there’s a whole lot at stake for every pair of eyeballs on any given show.

Which is why every story, headline and analysis about ratings is a hard-fought battle for those at the centre of it. There are millions of dollars involved, and billions on an annual basis.

We’re seeing some very creative use of programming and coding in order to massage those lately.

Recently a caller to an ABC radio programme who has had a ratings box for 2 years has let slip on mis-use of those precious boxes.

ABC702′s Dom Knight spoke to an anonymous listener -simply named Grant- who admitted to magically adding extra visitors to his ratings box for shows he felt deserved better numbers. Users are required to manually enter the age and demo of each viewer when watching TV.

“I’ll admit that I have added a couple of extra people on ‘good quality’ shows,” said Grant.

That way the shows he personally liked, would lift in the tally.

Grant explained that prolonged misuse of the box, such as leaving the TV on but going out for the day, usually results in an enquiry of some sort.

Of course like any large-scale survey it factors in a + / – to try to cover such “quirks.”

Some years ago I was on radio and similarly asked for calls.

Back then the system wasn’t as technical and required the viewer to also manually enter the show they were viewing. One caller told me they watched Nine News, but didn’t like Sam Newman at all, so they refused to punch in the numbers for other Nine shows. All hell broke loose for revealing such fakery, when in reality I was merely highlighting the system loopholes.

While we’re on the subject of ratings, I’ve been watching with interest the way other media are reporting results (which is entirely their editorial right). Some media have headlines today about The Block on top without any mention of its simulcast, which doesn’t exactly give full context. This kind of practice will probably mean networks try it on even more. It was similar for Family Feud, which probably explains why it is continuing for a third week by TEN.

On the other hand, there has been very little reportage of how strong TEN’s overall numbers have been of late. After two years of whacking them over their low numbers, it’s disappointing many have neglected to acknowledge wins on Thursday and Sunday, or that some of these numbers are the best in two years.

As far as I can see Mumbrella, The Guardian and Crikey have put some good context on this. Fairfax today details the roadblocking by The Block.

But last Friday there was barely a peep about TEN’s big win on Thursday. I’d be feeling pretty aggrieved about that if I was at TEN.

Additional source: Mumbrella, ABC

30 Responses

  1. I realise Morgans TV surveys wouldn’t be the proper TV ratings thingy, but would be for advertisers I presume, so they could know what shows people are watching, and the numbers watching.
    Maybe the Morgan surveys have more detail than the Ratings one.

    But still, I always gave my favourite programs a helping hand.

  2. I heard that ABC Radio show, & the two main topics were the return of Family Feud, & the use of ratings boxes. The show invited Mr Denyer to call in, or barring that, callers adopt the ID of “Grant Denyer”.
    “Grant” said that the main scrutiny of what the families watched was achieved by monitoring a microphone next to the TV, not totally via a PVR etc… The microphone was thought to be to avoid switching on the TV & then gong off to do something else instead. Wonder who listened to the daily “tapes”?

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