Network sports buying's dirty little secret


Carat Programming noted that some may be surprised that this year’s Super Bowl earned the same rating as last year (see charts) . This counters all the press about Sunday’s game being higher-rated than last year, (although total viewers and Adults 18-49 experienced increases).

This year’s 42.0 household rating is based on Nielsen’s "Live only" viewing data and Carat thinks that’s important to mention. The sports sales divisions of the major broadcast and cable networks refused to accept DVR-based commercial minute ratings measurement (C3) which ultimately became the basis of "currency" during the 2007/08 upfront for every major network in every daypart. Sports maintained the legacy ratings of "live program."

Interestingly, the networks’ sports research departments constantly tout audience figures based on "Live Plus Same Day DVR Viewing," even though that’s not how they sold ad time, said the Carat report.

The nets were concerned that Nielsen would be unable to handle the more- complicated network feed patterns associated with Professional/College football and Major League Baseball regular season telecasts, as well as the early rounds of the NCAA Basketball tournament (referred to as complex programming by Nielsen).

That doesn’t explain why they wouldn’t adopt the C3 measurement standard for the rest of their sports offerings, almost all of which air on a relatively uncomplicated single network feed. Nielsen’s C3 rating for Super Bowl XLII will be released in about two and one half weeks from now.

The inclusion of same-day timeshifted viewing to this year’s big game adds about 3% additional audience to both the live Household rating and total viewers. Ratings against Adults 18-49 grew by another 4.5% when same-day delayed viewing was factored in.