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In the Networks’ Race for Ratings, Every Bit Counts

Last month, we reported that ABC’s “Good Morning America,” in an increasingly close battle with NBC’s “Today,”  re-named a week of programming on a holiday week to eliminate the ratings from the national averages. In today’s New York Times, Bill Carter writes a front-page article examining tactics of trickery broadcast networks use when it comes to ratings:

NBC took the opposite path of ABC with the use of the term “special” in its presentation of the Republican primary debate on Jan. 23. Careful viewers noticed that the debate was labeled a regular edition of the network’s ratings-challenged newsmagazine program, “Rock Center with Brian Williams” — one that, as it turned out, just happened to double the show’s usual audience to just over 7.1 million viewers.

Networks closely track the gimmicks their competitors use to lift ratings, and it is a hotly debated subject within the industry, but most executives avoid speaking publicly about it so as not to be critical of tactics that they sometimes use themselves.

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