US networks misspell shows to avoid low ratings

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.


  1. Or they could just not look like idiots and rearrange the words. Like “NBC Nightly News” becomes “Nightly NBC News”. “CBS Evening News” could become “Evening News on CBS”. There’s a little tip for y’all ‘muricans.

  2. Haha. And I thought that we were “creative”‘ with our ratings coding in Australia.

    It didn’t occur to me about misspelled words in titles not counting towards ratings reports. If it happens in the US, it is only a matter of time it will happen down here. lol

  3. I fail to see how this would change anything. Do they really think people are so silly they wouldn’t realize its the same show with a different way of spelling it? Personally I don’t like abreviated names; its almost like texting. Its not good for kids to see things mispelled either I don’t think. This business of running a show over time is annoying and disrepectful to viewers, no matter what show it is.

    • Secret Squïrrel

      As explained in the article, the automated system for tallying ratings sees the misspelled program as a different show so its lower numbers are not added into the regular numbers for that program. This then gives that program a higher average for the week/month/year/whatever.

    • BellJay, it’s not about the viewers, which are the product being sold, it’s about the advertisers. The networks are attempting to hoodwink the advertisers but as the revenue figures show the advertisers are not idiots. They are sending an increasing percentage of their advertising budget to the internet where the viewers eyeballs are increasingly looking. Google et al have built an advertising empire on a global scale that televison networks operating within state and country borders simply can not match.

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