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It was becoming financially difficult for just one advertiser to support an entire show.
Around this same time came inception of ratings to measure a show's popularity. Ratings, quite simply, measure number of people watching a show. To understand why ratings are so important, it's crucial to understand how television industry works, through three questions, and their respective answers:
Who owns television? [The networks] 2.
What is sold on television? [Viewer's time, not television shows] 3.
Who are customers of television? [Advertisers, not viewers]
This might be a counterintuitive concept for some. The networks, which own television, areHistory of Media - Old Television buyers of shows, not sellers. On other hand, they sell our eyeballs, so to speak, to advertisers. Networks want maximum possible profit from buying and selling time, both viewers' time, and advertisers' time.
The primary measure of television ratings, which determine price of that time being bought and sold, is AC Nielsen, an independent company which provides information as to who watches what on television. Currently, about 4,000 households are used to represent national viewing of television. In 1980's, only 1,200 households were used. Some households have an electronic device installed on their television which tracks what they watch, while others keep a diary of viewing habits.
There are two measures for determining a show's audience. One is rating, and other is share.
Rating: Percentage of total homes with televisions tuned into a particular show. *
Share: Percentage of those watching television at a particular time who are tuned into a particular show.
The share is always greater than rating. Ratings are more important for advertisers, and share is more important to networks.
Total households with televisions: 150 million *
Total households watching television at 8pm on Monday nights: 90 million *
Total households watching American Idol at 8pm on Monday nights: 45 million *
Therefore: Rating: 30, Share: 50
It's important to note how many factors can skew results. Shows cost producers much more than networks typically pay them for those shows. The way for producers to make money is by getting networks to renew show, in order to have a shot at making money from syndication on other channels, also knows as reruns. That is case when individual stations (say for example, Miami affiliate of ABC wants to carry Seinfeld), buy rights to a show from producers of that show. Shows that last only one season, for most part, lose millions of dollars. One of most important factors in whether shows will be renewed or not is their rating.
This brings us to how ratings can be skewed. For example, if a show has a 20 share, and it needs a 25 share to be renewed for another season, what might producers do? In principle, they need to convince another 5% of people watching television when their show is on to watch their show; this is no simple task, as that involves convincing millions of people. However, since ratings are based on those 4,000 Nielsen households, that means that they could convince just 200 Nielsen households to watch their show, which would increase share from 20 to 25. This is why Nielsen households must be kept totally secret from networks. When Nielsen households have leaked to networks, one way which they got people to watch their show was by offering viewers a small sum of money for filling out a survey about a commercial which they were told would play only during a particular show. Since they had to watch that channel while their show was on, this would boost share.
Once ratings are determined, advertising prices are set by two factors:
* The size of audience. * The demographics (income, age, gender, occupation, etc) of audience.
In short, job of television programs is to collect our time as a product, which they then sell to advertisers. Programs have to support advertising, delivering viewers in best possible state of mind for buying when time for commercials comes, which brings us to Golden Age of Television.
The 1950's are considered "Golden Age of Television." During this time, something called "Anthology Series," where different actors each week took part in a show gained History of Media - I Love Lucypopularity across board...that is, with everyone except for advertisers. The anthology series format was not right for advertisers, as it covered topics which involved psychological confrontations which did not leave viewers in proper state of mind for buying products shown to them between program segments. The subject matter of anthology series was of type that undermined ads, almost making them seem fraudulent.
This brought up question of what to network executives actually want shows to do? The answer is not to watch a program that makes them feel good, makes them laugh, or excites them, but rather to watch television for a set amount of time. With so many new shows being proposed, standards began to be intentionally, or unintentionally, laid out for what shows could and couldn't do. Risks could only be taken at beginning and/or end of shows. Laugh tracks were conceived to tell audience when to laugh. Programs began being tested with audiences prior to being put on television and/or radio. Show writers now had to write shows that would test well.
Naturally, this caused many of same elements and themes to appear in all shows. This was beginning of recombinant television culture, where same elements are endlessly repeated, recombined, and mixed.
This same culture is what perpetuated idea that people watch television, not specific shows. While people certainly choose to watch certain shows instead of others, people less commonly choose to watch television instead of other things. People watch television. Regardless of what was on, television viewing rates were extremely stable.
David Pakman is a student at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, and editor/administrator of politics and media website www.heartheissues.com.