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Monday, July 10, 2017

Death spiral TV news lies to fool advertisers

Move over Fake News. Make way for Fake Ratings.

The Wall Street Journal just accused major television networks of using deception to goose ratings that include deliberately misspelling the names of the news shows.

Sounds like fraud to me.

Unlike their cable brethren, the broadcast newsers seem to be losing customers. I say seem because we have no way of telling as they have so gamed the ratings system that no honest person can say how many people watch them.

From the Wall Street Journal:
Boosting TV ratings is easy for networks that don’t mind playing dumb.
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.
“It’s a little bit of gamesmanship,” said Bill Carroll, a veteran TV industry consultant. “It’s a practice that happens with a wink and a nod.”
Higher ratings help networks sell commercial time at higher rates. The network misspellings fudge that calculation, and some advertisers say the trick is getting overused.

Comcast, Disney and CBS are stealing money from advertisers by faking ratings.

Sounds actionable to me. Maybe even criminal.

But I am no lawyer.

And the nightly newscasts on the broadcast networks are not real news, because real journalists would not lie like that.

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  1. I have long felt that the smart cable boxes can truly track viewership. Changing program names seems like the only way to rig the system. I agree that this sounds like fraud to me. They can claim that they have hired editors from the New York Times and thus the spelling errors, but that may not hold up in court.

  2. Seems to me that Neilsen ought to do something about that, as this falsifies their ratings. Makes them inaccurate, which will, in time, render Neilsen worthless.

    1. Gallup et al. comes to mind.


    2. Advertisers rely on these numbers. Time for a class action suit either against Neilsen or the networks or both.

  3. i cut my cable
    bought a roku stick
    watch many apps free
    now my money does not go to these cable tv reality news shows starring the anchors

    love fox business
    maria, varney & co, charles payne and trish regan and lou dobbs
    watch it free on my roku stick

    don't miss cable
    am doing my part to starve the beasts

  4. I did the same and now enjoy a wider, better variety of programming than before at about the same price.
    PBS and History Channel vaults -- $12
    Sling plus extras -- $35
    Netflix and Hulu-- $15
    Xfinity Beta On-Demand --$0

    Those options, along with the many free Roku channels, gives me many more options, and without a contract or multiple fees.

  5. Recall that Hillary disguised her contributions from The American-Muslim Council as The American Museum Council. Shrewd with a capital shrew.

  6. I wonder what the real "ratings" are for TV advertisement. That is what the "ratings" are if they were based on how many people are actually paying attention. When you think of all the DVR and mute features people use, when people tune out commercials and play with their phones during commercials, how many people are actually watching these ads? What happens when the advertisers figure this out?

  7. Do these people ever tell the truth?