Fox to Stop Issuing Live Ratings for Most of Its Shows

  • Network to rely on 3-day, 7-day measurements for entertainment
  • Early numbers will still be provided for live events
Source: FOX

Fox, the broadcast network owned by 21st Century Fox Inc., will stop issuing ratings based on how many people watch its shows live or soon after they air, saying the measure is no longer relevant because so many viewers catch up later.

The network will still provide the so-called live plus same-day ratings for live events like awards shows and sports, it said in a statement on Friday. For most entertainment, like sitcoms or scheduled reality programs, it’ll measure viewership after three and seven days.

Fox, part of billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s television empire, becomes the first network to break completely with the ritual of sending out daily ratings e-mails to journalists covering the television beat. The numbers, which come from Nielsen, are repackaged by statistics staff at the networks to spin even the most disappointing results as positive.

“There will no longer be THAT email in your inbox every morning at 8AM, because THAT email is no longer relevant,” Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who share the titles of chairman and chief executive officer at Fox Television Group, said in a memo. “The connections between viewers and our shows today are more complex and, in many ways, deeper than ever – but they no longer only happen overnight.”

Shrinking Audience

The live audience for all four major broadcast networks has been shrinking for years. Viewers moved first to cable channels and then began taping shows. On-demand operators like Netflix Inc. and Hulu LLC further fractured audiences, as many viewers opted for the convenience and and ease of watching through apps.

Media executives have responded by stressing the growth in delayed viewing and trying to get more compensation. CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves has said overnight ratings are “worthless.”

Advertisers are still reluctant to pay for some delayed viewing, though some have been paying for shows watched as much as seven days after they originally air, up from the traditional three days. That still doesn’t capture all viewing, which is a big reason measurement firm Nielsen will introduce a tool to count a show’s total audience on TV and online for more than a month.

Sports are the big exception to the drop in ratings. Live viewing for professional football has increased in the current season, as did ratings for Major League Baseball’s World Series.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.