Nielsen TV Ratings Explained

by on March 7, 2010

in Entertainment


Have you ever been befuddled by all the funny Nielsen Ratings numbers when TV ratings are shown television series ratings is explained to you in odd numbers that don’t equate out to how many people are actually watching a show? Yea, me too.

Every time I come across TV ratings, I try to hunt down the actual number number in millions to explain it more simply. I like seeing that, hence, I like reporting that.

Yet there are times you will see TV rating numbers that look like this: 5.2/14. What’s that? The first number is the rating and the 2nd number is the share.

That 5.2 (rating) is the estimated percentage of Nielsen households that watched, ie: 5.2% of houses had the TV on with that show broadcasting out the speakers! The 14 (share) is the percentage of all their people watching that specific show, or all of the Nielsen families watching TV at that time.

In other words, 5% of all homes had the TV tuned to TV series X. Of all people (not homes) watching TV, 14% of them were watching TV series X.

Of course things are broken down into several categories beyond, the most important is the Adult 18-49 group. This is the group that will be most swayed by advertising and spend money, making it worthwhile for advertisers to send money to networks for specific shows.

But on occasion, I come across numbers and I just want to get out the actual ratings and get the article out. Hence, I thought I’d try to explain How To Read Television Ratings for you folks that happen by this snippet of info!

Here we go:

  • HHs: The estimated number of television households in the U.S..
  • LIVE+SD: Those who watched the show the day it aired. Whether live or DVR’d.
  • LIVE+7: See LIVE+SD, but make it 7 days.
  • PERS 2+: Estimated # of viewers over the age of 2 in the U.S..
  • RATING #: 1 point = 1% of the estimated Nielsen universe.

Is it me, or do you find it scary they have a need to define a television viewer from the age of 2 and up?

So if you find me reporting a number that’s not in the millions, but start spouting funny numbers like a HH 5.5, or just 6.1, then the HH is 5% of estimated households, or 6.1% of all estimated viewers. There are other companies and their own methods, but today, we’re chatting about The Nielsen Ratings system.

Now you know!

Many thanks to TV By The Numbers for the human explanation and this was about as simple an explanation on TV ratings that I could muster!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Wanda May 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

25-54 year old viewers are not relevant, is what they are saying as well as the fans that watch these shows in the 18-49 age range. A show is supposedly the best because young people watch them, and the others worthless because older people watch them. That’s what I get out of this crap of a ratings system. There has to be a better way of doing this, to please not only the advertisers and all fans of all the shows, no matter the age.

Bruce Simmons October 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Randie, I only write about these things, I’m not associated with the org, so I pulled your address out of the comment. -B

Randie Pierce October 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I have heard so much abut Nielsen TV Rating, I decided that I would like to imput some comments on different ratings. Thank you in advance. My address is: [edited out] Please mail my rating form to the address above.

Bruce Simmons May 9, 2012 at 6:12 am

Peter… I’m still looking! Hang tight!

Peter Murray May 3, 2012 at 5:21 am

Dear People
I am trying to find a ratings list of Toronto Recieved News broadcast , especially in morning shows. Canadian, Canadian. Please.

JACQUELINE MARSHALL March 31, 2012 at 11:25 am

Niesen ratings appears to have full control of what everyone watches and considering the population of America alone this seems a very limited rating per population.

There should be other factors other than Nielsen rating shows to make it a fairer other companies should have the same access across America and what about Europe don’t they count.

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