Research for Advanced Business Strategy project at Kellogg
The Complete Directory to Primetime Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present (9th Edition). Tim
Brooks and Earle Marsh. Ballantine Books – New York. 2007.
Average Nielsen Rating 35
1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015
#1 Nielsen Rating #30 Nielsen Rating
ME: The average audience size for the top 30 annual shows is decreasing. This is a result of audience
fragmentation; people are spending more time watching other programs/channels.
Estimated average decrease for #1 show’s Nielsen rating is -0.6116 points per year. The 95% CI for the
annual change is [-0.759, -0.465].
In 2009, the average rating for the #1 show, American Idol on Wednesdays, was 14.4. This is within
the estimated 95% CI, [10.122, 15.351].
Estimate average decrease for #30 show’s Nielsen rating is -.488 points per year. The 95% CI for the
annual change is [-0.519, -0.456].
Nielsen Wire Blog. (2009). Big Screen, Smart Screen, Small Screen. Retrieved on April 25, 2010, from
the Nielsen Wire website at http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/big-screen-smart-
Audience fragmentation continues. The increasing variety and sophistication of media options will
make it a challenge to keep viewers engaged and receptive. Evolutions to the media universe will
need to follow the new laws of increasing portability and increasing content.
ME: In the face of audience fragmentation, NBC should own more channels to capture fragmented
audiences interested in niche topics. In particular, it seems that audiences are increasingly shifting
toward basic cable offerings, which have the benefit of providing two revenue streams, so that is
where NBC should probably focus any future acquisition efforts.
New and varied approaches to content are created. New, low-cost models are key (e.g., Jay Leno’s
nightly 10 p.m. program on NBC). Low-performing networks will go extinct and free on demand online
offerings will need reconsideration.
ME: Need to look at what is cheapest based on Jon’s data: creating it ourselves or buying it.
Despite the availability of video content on the Internet, TV viewing is up by about 20% over the last
ME: TV viewing is going up even as the 1st and 30th shows’ Nielsen ratings continue to go down.
Implies that audience fragmentation is in fact occurring. People are watching more cable channels in
lieu of other options.
Nielsen Wire Blog. (2010). Do We Watch the Web the Same Way We Watch TV? Not Really. Retrieved
on April 25, 2010, from the Nielsen Wire website at
In short, TV network content online is used to catch up with programming, and not typically as a
replacement for TV viewing as results from our email survey showed.
ME: By owning more channels, you have places to air more programming that doesn’t fit in the main
broadcast channels. More content means a better chance of getting more online viewers who are
trying to catch up on shows. Furthermore, if one of these shows becomes a hit, and you control the
only online distribution for that channel, you would see further traffic benefits, which could also spill
over onto other online programming.
Nielsen Wire Blog. (2009). Average TV Viewing for 2008-09 TV Season at All-Time High. Retrieved on
April 25, 2010, from the Nielsen Wire website at
For the 2008-2009 TV season, the amount of television watched reached an all-time high as Americans
spent four hours and 49 minutes a day on average in front of the TV, up four minutes from last year
and up 20% from 10 years ago. The average household watched eight hours and 21 minutes a day on
average, also at an all-time high.
ME: Again, people are watching more TV, but the ratings for the top 30 network shows are going
down, so they are watching more cable programming.
ME: This just shows that average time spent watching TV has been steadily increasing the last decade
Time (minutes) 200
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007
Total Viewing Primetime Viewing
ME: This data comes via the historicalviewing.pdf that was available on this page. It shows that
vieiwng during primetime (4-hour block 7-11 EST, during which networks tend to air 3 hours of
programming) has been flat for the past two decades. Although primetime can still capture the largest
audiences, this may eventually level off for most programming.
Wikipedia. (2009). Nielsen ratings. Retrieved on April 25, 2010, from the Wikipedia website at
As of September 1, 2009, there are an estimated 114.9 million television households in the United
States. A single national ratings point represents one percent of the total number, or 1,149,000
households for the 2009–10 season.
ME: I can use this data to calculate how the networks are doing
Wikipedia. (2009). Cable channel. Retrieved on April 25, 2010, from the Wikipedia website at
While usually national in scope, cable channels are not television networks in the defined sense (as
are, for example, CBS or NBC in the United States, or the BBC in the United Kingdom), because they
provide a full national schedule and do not need to act through local stations in each media market.
However, individual cable and satellite providers that carry them are sometimes called "affiliates", in
recognition of the agreements required for these providers to carry each channel and that most
networks offer each system a block of one or two minutes each hour to carry local advertising (or
promotions for the satellite companies).
ME: Cable channels have more flexibility because they can control all of the programming nationally,
so they have more opportunities to try new shows. This also means that they earn all of the
advertising revenue, versus broadcast networks, which only get advertising revenue for the block of
time they control (3-4 hours) on local affiliates.
Gorman, Bill. (2008). Updated: Where Did The Primetime Broadcast Audience Go?. Retrieved on April
15, 2010, from the TV By The Numbers website at http://tvbythenumbers.com/2008/12/03/updated-
ME: Cable channels primetime HH viewing audience has been growing steadily while others declined.
Estimated average change of network affiliate primetime HH viewership is -0.764 per year. The 95% CI
is [-0.877, -0.650].
Estimated average change of Ad/Basic cable primetime HH viewership is 1.485 per year. The 95% CI is
Nielsen Wire Blog. (2010). Weekly TV Ratings: 04/05/2010 – 04/11/2010. Retrieved on April 25, 2010,
from the Nielsen Wire website at http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/weekly-tv-ratings/
Top-10 TV Show Ratings: 04/05 - 04/11
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
ME: Broadcast shows still continue to maintain a larger audience than cable shows, but cable shows
may be more attractive audiences for targeted advertising. For example, if I am releasing a science
fiction or horror film, then I should be more willing to pay for advertising on SyFy versus Oxygen. This
could give NBC an opportunity to do bundled online/TV advertising deals, where viewers get ad
content served based on the program they are watching.