Nielsen ratings are posted every week on Ultimate TV's website.
Ratings info for national networks is compiled every week through "Nielsen boxes," electronic devices that monitor channel choices of those who have them installed at home. This info can be compiled in three different ways:
ratings points: This is the major way of reporting ratings information. Each ratings point represents one percent of the total audience (about 980,000 Americans), whether they're watching television or not. Within this category are Gross Ratings Points (ratings by household), and Target Ratings Points (ratings points categorized by target demographic group).
shares: Unlike a ratings point, a share is the number of people tuned in to a particular program divided by the audience currently watching television (rather than the total television "universe").
To the left are the average Nielsen ratings for top programs during the 1997-1998 season. On average, 19.5% of Americans with television sets watched Seinfeld. Of all the television sets that were turned on during the time Seinfeld aired (Thursday nights), 31% were tuned to the show.
Monday Night Football
totals: The final method of reporting ratings info is by the total number (in thousands or millions) of people watching a particular program.
Ratings are important because they let networks and potential advertisers know how many people and what kinds of people are watching different programs. Shows that do poorly lose sponsorship and are sometimes cancelled. If a show does well, networks can charge advertisers more to air ads.
INTERVIEW: Chris Pelletier, KITV Sales
Courtland Bovee and William Arens. Contemporary Advertising.