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Lies, Damned Lies and Ratings

Oh CBC, you’ve joined the big leagues in the braggy ratings media release department with your latest missive: “CBC’s Powerhouse Primetime Schedule Consistently Attracts Audiences of Over One Million.”

Consistently? Really? Because the release doesn’t actually say that. It says you used inconsistent metrics to manufacture a point. Show me the episode ratings for all the shows you mention, or forfeit the right to use that word.

X Company and Ascension’s debuts (their high points) are compared to Schitt’s Creek‘s average (averaging is a good way to disguise a 50% drop in ratings to well below a million). Murdoch Mysteries? Genuinely gets over a million consistently. The Book of Negroes? Also did. Mercer hovers around there.

I still love what you’re doing lately — you’re making some good shows, and getting some good ratings — but come on, CBC. You make me nostalgic for the days when CTV and Global would send out duelling releases bragging about how they each won the night depending on which arcane way they sliced the ratings pie. “Won its timeslot with viewers aged 17.5 to 21.75!” (It’s possible that’s not really a direct quote.) Or when Bell challenged me saying Motive’s ratings sagged after a timeslot move by giving me a season average, and I showed them the episode by episode breakdown to show the definite sag.

Another recent howler was when Rogers dismissed Numeris’ data as meaningless when media latched on to the lower NHL ratings, and followed that up with, of course, the usual braggy media releases about their US series acquisitions. Numeris is the company that provides ratings to all the networks. You either accept them as statistically meaningful, more or less, or you don’t, but you don’t get to pick the numbers you like and discard the ones you don’t.

It’s ok to celebrate success. It’s terrific, in fact. But numbers and words have meaning, and audiences have brains. Don’t abuse them.

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Diane Wild

Diane is the founder of TV, eh? She loves books, movies, TV, science, space, traveling, theatre, art, cats, and drinking multiple beverages at the same time.
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3 thoughts on “Lies, Damned Lies and Ratings”

  1. Lol, I didn’t mind it so much when CBC did it. After seeing Global and CTV doing it for years I figured it’s about darn time CBC joined the game. What are the current X Company ratings anyhow? I’ve really been liking it. Thrilled it’s getting a second season.

  2. I didn’t hear the exact number but I heard that it bounced back up to 800 range. Also, apparently XCompany is CBC’s highest-PVR’ed show by a long shot.

    I’m exhausted from people fighting over live plus 3s or live plus 7s and agree with you that transparency on something other than the top 30 program numbers would be great. And the duelling press releases in a vacuum is never a game that I think looks good.

    But there are some realities – some of which I just learned a while ago myself that present significant obstacles to the transparency we’d all love to see.

    First – let’s be honest. When you get ratings info, (or me, most of the time) or Brioux, it’s because someone leaked the sheet. That doesn’t happen consistently.

    And apparently the whole consortium, part of the user agreement is that you promise NOT to release head to head data. And there’s no real Marc Berman or someone crunching all the data and making apples to apples comparisons like in the USA.

    The whole thing’s borked. Ratings are borked. Every number needs so many G_D asterisks now it looks like a child’s birthday cake.

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