NEW YORK (AP) — Television networks will be happy to know that ratings will go up for many of their programs next year, simply because the Nielsen company will count more people.
The company whose numbers provide the currency for the TV industry says its change will begin next September, when it begins accounting for people who watch outside of their homes. That news, first reported in Variety, means that people who watch in bars, airports or offices will be accounted for in the measurements used to set advertising rates.
That's been a long time coming for networks, which have been prodding Nielsen to find a way to pick up this extra viewership for years. CNBC stopped subscribing to Nielsen four years ago, feeling cheated because Nielsen didn't count people who watched business coverage in offices.
"We think it's important," said Scott Brown, a Nielsen executive, on Tuesday. "We know that this is real viewership that wasn't being counted or measured and our goal is to measure everyone that is watching."
Based on its tests, Nielsen predicts that its count of people watching sports events will go up an average of 11 percent. News shows are averaging a 7 percent increase. For networks that traffic in that programming, that's real money — numbers that can be incorporated in what they charge for commercial time.
For example, Nielsen reported in February that 100.7 million people watched the Super Bowl. But with out-of-home viewership is counted, that added 12 million people.
Nielsen has spent years tinkering with the technology to achieve this, where viewership is counted through a portable device that picks up embedded audio signals. Typically, in-home viewership is counted through a device attached to television sets.
As the system has been tested for the past two years, Nielsen has been selling the out-of-home measurements to specific clients as an extra service.
Football is back in the picture now, and in last week's ratings NBC was the biggest beneficiary. The network's two prime-time NFL games helped it dominate the weekly competition, where NBC averaged 8.8 million viewers.
CBS landed in second with 3.7 million viewers, ABC had 3.5 million, Fox had 3.3 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, Univision had 1.2 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 610,000.
Serena Williams may have failed in her attempt to win a 24th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, but she was a ratings winner. ESPN's coverage of the women's U.S. Open Final reached 3.22 million viewers, while the men's final had 2.75 million. The men competed against opening weekend of the NFL, however.
ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.58 million viewers in prime time. Fox News Channel had 2.15 million, MSNBC had 1.37 million, HGTV had 1.2 million and TLC had 1.07 million.
ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.4 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" was second with 7.5 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.4 million viewers.
For the week of Sept. 2-8, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships:
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by Fox Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.