The Wall Street Journal reports on the ways TV networks trick the system to create fake ratings and appear more popular than they really are.
The story reveals the way TV networks could generate fake ratings for any kind of show, but their examples cover a lot of news shows. At a time when Conservatives and Libertarians and Populists are fighting with the mainstream media for moral authority, an article on how networks arrange fake ratings, is especially relevant to the problem of fake news.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “In TV Ratings Game, Networks Try to Dissguys Bad Newz from Nielsen.”
In a game largely sanctioned by TV-ratings firm Nielsen, television networks try to hide their shows’ poor performances on any given night by forgetting how to spell.
That explains the appearance of “NBC Nitely News,” which apparently aired on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this year, when a lot of people were away from their TVs. The retitling of “NBC Nightly News” fooled Nielsen’s automated system, which listed “Nitely” as a separate show.
Hiding the May 26 program from Nielsen dramatically improved the show’s average viewership that week. Instead of falling further behind first-place rival “ABC World News Tonight,” NBC news narrowed the gap.
Walt Disney Co.’s ABC declined to comment. The network, though, groused last month when NBC News intentionally misspelled an entire week of “Nightly News” broadcasts. Altogether, NBC, which is ranked second behind ABC in ratings, has played the misspell card 14 times since the start of the 2016-17 television season last fall.
NBC News said it broke no rules. “As is standard industry practice, our broadcast is retitled when there are pre-emptions and inconsistencies or irregularities in the schedule, which can include holiday weekends and special sporting events,” a show spokesman said.
The network needn’t feel defensive. ABC took its own ratings mulligan seven times during the 2016-17 season with “Wrld New Tonite.” CBS misspelled “The CBS Evening News” as the “CBS Evening Nws” 12 times this season.
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