Nielsen has admitted that the broadcast network ratings it has been reporting for the past seven months are inaccurate, favoring ABC while having a negative impact on the others. Even though it looks like the discrepancy is a small one, the damage to the company’s reputation could be much greater.
According to the company, the error in viewing totals is between .1 percent and .25 percent. The degree to which this could impact the ratings outcomes for different shows is yet to be seen. For instance, TVNewser has long tracked the competition among news broadcasts. ABC had been celebrating a rise above NBC, the first in five years. A revision could take that away. In other cases, the numbers might change slightly, but the outcome — first, second or third — would remain the same. Overall, Deadline reports that many of the larger outcomes would be unchanged.
These small amendments can have an effect on big advertising dollars for the networks. Moreover, Nielsen has been fighting a battle over its ability to thoroughly track TV viewership at a time of great audience fragmentation. That this error was made and wasn’t caught for so long has got some in the industry very upset.