Deep Inside the Flawed Nielsen Ratings System

It happens to all of us: your new favorite show is doomed from the start, all because of bad Nielsen ratings. But why do we listen to these Nielsen people, anyway? Splitsider explains who they are, and why they're wrong.

Nielsen, it turns out, is a billion-dollar business built to measure the how many people watch not TV shows, but TV ads:

The numbers that networks and advertisers actually use - to sell ads, to set prices, and to decide on the fate of a show - are commercial ratings. In other words, advertisers don't care how many people are watching a show nearly as much as they care how many people are watching their ads. Nielsen provides this number, which takes into account everything from next-day DVR viewing to fast-forwarding through commercials. If every Nielsen Family watched a show the day after it aired but skipped through all its ads, that show would probably be canceled.

Also not included: Hulu and Netflix views. Or On-Demand views through cable providers. It's not that people aren't watching your favorite show; it's that they're not watching the right way.

There's hope, though; Nielsen's stepping up their consideration of digital views, and some competitors are now offering better overall coverage. Too late to save Party Down! But hopefully in time for the next great overlooked show. Check out the full breakdown here. [Splitsider]