Be wary of most of the Monday TV ratings numbers you’ll see for the Super Bowl

 

There will be a lot of numbers reported for the Super Bowl on Monday.  Because of the way ratings work and because of the way people work, this can produce some interesting results.

You might see headlines or people tweeting “Super Bowl down from 2014!” only to be followed up a few hours later with “Woo hoo! Super Bowl sets ratings records!”

Here’s a look at the various ratings you’ll see reported for the Super Bowl. Hopefully you’ll get a good idea of how much you should trust them.

Metered Market Ratings (AKA “Overnights”)

These will be the first numbers reported, typically in the form of household rating/share.  The thing with the metered market ratings is that they only measure the 56 largest Nielsen markets (out of a total of 210). This accounts for about 70% of the U.S. TV households.

These numbers are very good for the markets they measure. But in not including ~30% of the TV households in the U.S., the final household rating might look quite different.

Fast National ratings

The good news is that the fast nationals include all of the markets and they also include viewership info.  They are typically pretty accurate for primetime fare, but be warned: because of the way they work — they are not time-zone adjusted —  they’re useless for live, coast-to-coast telecasts. Period. They also wont include the 6:30p-7p ET portion of the game, but even if they did, still pretty useless. Ignore these numbers.

Time Zone Adjusted Fast Nationals/Expedited Final National ratings

There is usually no distinction between these numbers and the actual final numbers. They fix the time zone issues with the fast nationals.

But usually isn’t always. Last year this number reported 111.5 million (111.488 million for the purists). Fox reported this number in a release and Nielsen itself posted this number.  Many people are finding that post and citing the 111.5 million. That number was still a record but worked out to be about 99.4% of the ultimate number. That’s close, but alas, 99.4% isn’t 100%.

Final National ratings

The  next day (the Tuesday after the Super Bowl) Nielsen released the final number and it was 112,191 and Fox issued an updated release which I’ve included below. So if you’re wondering why some sites are reporting 111.5 million for last year’s Super Bowl while other’s are reporting 112.2 million, now you know.

The Fox release explained it as follows:

It’s not uncommon for the final national figures to deviate from the fast national by roughly 1%. In most cases, the difference is insignificant, but with an audience the size of the  Super Bowl, the adjustment can result ratings and audience being altered.

If you bet on the Super Bowl averaging more than 113 million viewers and Monday afternoon/evening you’re seeing 112.9 million, there’s still some hope you’ll wake up a winner on Tuesday morning.

via Fox Sports on February 4, 2014:

SUPER BOWL XLVIII AUDIENCE NOW 112.2 MILLION; RATING 46.7

Earlier today Nielsen issued FINAL Live + Same Day national ratings for Super Bowl XLVIII and both the household rating and average audience figures have risen compared to the time zone adjusted fast nationals released yesterday.

The average audience for the game has increased to 112.2 million viewers, up from 111.5 million reported yesterday, which was already record-breaking.  The household rating for Super Bowl XLVIII now stands at 46.7, up from a 46.4 based on fast nationals issued Monday.  Super Bowl XLVIII now ranks alone as seventh highest rated Super Bowl ever; at 46.4 it had been tied for seventh best. The 69 share reported yesterday is unchanged.

It’s not uncommon for the final national figures to deviate from the fast national by roughly 1%. In most cases, the difference is insignificant, but with an audience the size of the  Super Bowl, the adjustment can result ratings and audience being altered.

 

 

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