TL;DR: understanding of Nielsen terminology + applied basic mathematics.
I get variations on questions like the one in the headline fairly often. In this case it’s in reference to the e-sports EVO telecast on ESPN a couple of weeks ago that indeed averaged 201,000 viewers in the Nielsen live plus same day DVR reporting.
Additional numbers were released that said the EVO telecast averaged 1.946 million viewers who watched on average 20 minutes each.
I didn’t bother to confirm the additional reporting since the numbers are plausible — that is the math works even if it looks pretty wacky until you actually do the math. How can 201K AND 1.95 million both be true? That’s a big difference!
Let’s talk about what the 201K is. It’s the average per minute over the entire course of the telecast. That telecast was three hours and twenty minutes long (200 minutes). So the telecast averaged 201K viewers every single minute of a 200 minute telecast. That winds up being a lot of minutes – 40.2 million minutes of TV viewing.
The daily numbers you see start with the end of the math not the beginning. Done in its original order the case is that the telecast had 40.2 million minutes of viewing and those 40.2 million minutes were divided by the length of the telecast (200 minutes) to arrive at the 201,000 viewer average.
What about that 1.946 million thing who on average watched 20 minutes? If you take the 40.2 million minutes and divide it by 1.946 million viewers who watched at least 1 minute of the telecast you get an average of around 20 minutes per viewer.
In this case I got an average of closer to 21 minutes but I chalk that up to rounding. All the daily #s that I post are rounded to the nearest thousand viewers. In this example that means the 201,000 number I reported could’ve been anything from 200,500 viewers to 201,499 viewers. Most (maybe all) of the daily reporting floating around the Internet rounds viewers to thousands but Nielsen subscribers like ESPN have access to the unrounded numbers.