Television has been part of our lives for such a long time that we no longer feel the need to question its existence, or to ask ourselves how it functions. Nevertheless, watching television is something that influences us all but what few people think about is that we influence it ourselves. Have you ever heard of television statistics and ratings? You probably have, though always wondering how they manage to find out what we watch and for how long, and what we watch less. Moreover, how do they know people are going to like a show before releasing it? Well, everything has to do with television statistics and ratings.
In certain countries, television statistics and ratings are determined by a company, which then makes its information available to the networks, the media and the advertisers. In the US and Canada for example, everyone knows that the ratings are determined by the Nielsen Media Research company, through methods similar to those used to predict electorate outcomes. Thus, they choose a focus group of people, which is called a sample audience, and then analysts see what programs the people watched more, when they preferred watching it, what they immediately disliked and changed the channel and so on.
The sample audience is used as an example, and the results from its viewings are extrapolated to estimate how much of the entire population watches the program. However, this is a simplified explanation of this process, which is actually very extensive and complex. One of the methods through which the company gets its television statistics and ratings is by installing TV meters in a number of chosen homes, but with the people’s approval of course. This information is combined with their large databases on TV programs, and results start making sense.
In some situations, in order to better determine who watches what, each member of the household is given a different button to open the TV, so an apparatus records what each person preferred watching. Thus, they know what cartoons the children watched, whether the mother watches teleshopping, or for how long the father watches the sports channel. How the households are chosen is not part of a system, but they are rather chosen at random. Things may differ slightly from country to country, but this is how television statistics are usually gathered.
The televisions and cable networks then use it to adapt their programs, to create new shows based on what they think people will watch, and advertisers will prepare strategies, such as choosing a certain time slot for their commercials, or a certain show or program that they believe the right audience is watching. In conclusion, television is a complicated industry, and we mustn’t complain when bad programs are on because if we would stop watching them, they would stop being produced as well.