Nielsen: We’ve Been Getting TV Ratings Wrong Since March

Nielsen, the far-too-powerful institution that measures television ratings—and by association, is the governing body by which hundreds of thousands working in the television industry are beholden to for their very livelihood—announced today a major fuck-up: A system error has resulted in faulty ratings reports since March of this year.

According to company’s statement, the error entered their system March 2 and they didn’t notice until October 6—four days ago. What finally alerted them to the error? Shows getting too-high ratings during premiere week, when the broadcast networks debut a slew of their new shows. From Deadline:

The possibility of a problem surfaced at the beginning of the fall TV season as the number of viewers increased. It was particularly noticeable at ABC where — as my colleague Nellie Andreeva reported last week — the network’s fast nationals in adults 18-49 and total viewers were adjusted up every night for the first nine days. On eight of the nine nights, the entire ABC lineup went up in the finals. That meant 20 programs saw a lift without a single downward adjustment in 18-49. Over the same period, the other major broadcast networks saw 15 adjustments combined – nine up a tenth and six down a tenth. Nielsen declined to say whether ABC might have benefited from its glitch, saying that the network was entitled to review the numbers before they’re released on Monday.

“As a result, small amounts of viewing for some national broadcast networks and syndicators were misattributed,” their statement reads. “Cable networks and local TV ratings were not affected by this error.” …