Chuck vs. The Ratings UPDATED

Ratings and the Nielsen system are a small hobby of mine.  I like looking at the stats and prognosticating on how Chuck will do week to week.  One of our readers, Big Kev, very astutely summarized my feelings, and I quote him below:

“I read in that TVBTN thread that only 25,000 families have Neilsen boxes? Is that true? One of the biggest industries in the US collects it’s most important data from a sample size equivalent to 0.008 per cent of the population? And using outdated technology? Wow. Boggles my mind.”

First I started by making a chart, comparing Chuck with The Event, Chase, and Undercovers, which are all NBC shows.  I do this to illustrate how Chuck is doing this season.  The bottom line is that Chuck is fairly stable, while the other new shows are in free fall.  I put this chart together with the initial data, but wanted to add that now TVBTN is showing that Chuck’s premiere scored:

Chuck had a Live+SD rating with adults 18-49 of 2.0 for its premiere on September 20, and a full week’s worth of DVR viewing pushed it up to a 2.6.  On a Live+SD basis it was ranked #57 for the week among ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC.  With Live+7 it jumped to 55th.

The interesting thing (though not really surprising for an 8pm scripted show) was that almost half of Chuck’s adults 18-49 DVR lift came from same day (before 3am Tuesday morning) DVR viewing.  Chuck had a Live 18-49 rating of 1.5 (please note, nobody reports live viewing anymore and we only see the live numbers in the context of Live+7 DVR lift).

In total viewers Chuck jumped from 5.812 million Live+SD to 7.045 million Live+7.


Ratings updated as of October 16, 2010


Now it’s your turn to weigh in.  More after the break.

The Nielsen system is flawed and I don’t think you’ll find many defending it.  I personally don’t know anyone who is a Nielsen viewer.  How do we find our voice as a viewer to be heard?  Zac Levi is one of the most followed celebrities on Twitter, Chuck is listed as part of the flagship for NBC’s lineup, and we know there is a solid fan base.  My question is how large is the fanbase really?  I know we skew older (I’m 37) and male (sorry, not male!).  I am not part of the coveted demo 😦  but I still want to be “counted.”  Let us know what you think.

First let’s get some opinions about the job the present system does.

Next, how do you feel about a pretty straightforward alternative?

Last, is advertising and promotion already irrelevant?


About amyabn

My name is Amy and I'm in the active Army as my profession. I love the show Chuck and want to see it succeed for many seasons to come. My twitter handle is amyabn.
This entry was posted in Administrative, polls, Ratings. Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Chuck vs. The Ratings UPDATED

  1. amyabn says:

    Sorry the chart didn’t turn out so well. We will be refining as we learn. Any excel/powerpoint geniuses among us?

  2. herder says:

    Amy, I think that you, like me get your information from TVBTN, as to the age of the viewers they had an intersting article about average age of viewers the other day. They showed the twenty oldest skewing show ending at 49 and that article had a link to the 12 youngest skewing shows topping out at 42 as Chuck was on neither list (giving 32 of the 70 some shows) it’s audience average age falls somewhere between 42 and 49 which is where I fit in.

    One of the reasons that I feel optimistic about the back 6/9 is the consistency of the numbers for Chuck. Now if only we can get those numbers to go up a bit then Chuck will likely be able to get a season five. Their renewal index is based upon a percentage of the average of the demo rating for all scripted shows. They take the view that if you are at 90% of the average you will be renewed.

    After two weeks the average is about 2.4 demo and Chuck is at .79 of that this week because of the weak performance of so many shows Chuck should creep up to .84 or something like that. If Chuck can add some viewers the generally weak performance of not only the new shows but most of the older shows too should put Chuck in a good position for renewal. Prior to the Olympics last year Chuck was averaging about 2.4 which would place it in a position of safety and give it the promotion that would help keep it there.

    They also have a very useful shorthand way of telling if you are safe or not. The idea is that all shows are being chased by the cancellation bear, you don’t have to be the fastest runner, merely faster that those you are running against to be safe from the bear. Although Chuck started out poorly, it has passed Outlaws, Undercovers and this week will likely be ahead of Community, next week if trends hold it will be ahead of Chase too with the posibility of coming close to Parenthood. In terms of cancellation Chuck is not in competition with House or HIMYM but other NBC shows, of course none of this will hold true if Comcast decides to clean house when they take over.

    The bottom line is that Chuck is in a reasonably good position now for a back order of some sort, but it needs to improve to be safe for next year.

    • joe says:

      Yeah, Comcast is a real wild card. I don’t think anyone knows if they’ll clean house or try to be cautious in the changes they make hoping to not wreck everything.

      I’m guessing it’ll be “steady as she goes” for a while, until new management settles in. Maybe 9 months or a year. The effects of it all will be seen after that.

    • amyabn says:

      Herder, keep your eyes on Outsourced. I’m hearing it isn’t doing well also, and it’s another NBC show. Keep running Chuck! The bear has plenty to snack on! Oh, and they are talking about naming the bear. 🙂

  3. joe says:

    Now those are great questions!

    I know it’s easy and even fashionable to knock Neilsen, but I have to ask. Is it true that they’re way behind, technologically speaking? I’m not too worried by small numbers – a well chosen small sample can be every bit as good as a large one (emphasis on well chosen!). And I’m even aware that there are conditions that degrade the results of poles as the sample get larger. But have they let themselves fall behind? Just askin’

    In a way, I feel sorry for them (if it’s possible to feel sorry for a corporate entity). They are Cassandras that can bring only the news that the buyers are paying for, or bad news.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Yes, we are not experts on how the NielsonCo. conducts it’s surveys. And statistically speaking you are right. I think a larger question is will the network model, free programming paid for by advertising time, survive in a world with so many choices. And with so many choices, should the network model be determining what entertainment and good TV is?

      • joe says:

        This sounds identical to the problem faced by the music business right now. In an age when music is essentially free, what business model is going to support the talent and the infrastructure overhead?

        It’ll be very interesting to come back in a second life in, oh, about 100 yrs from now and see what develops.

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      I don’t know if I’ve said this before but I actually do know for a fact that in alot of ways YES. They are.

      Before rewardtv came about (2008) I got a letter from the mail (with cash) from nielsen. Now before you get excited I wasn’t being made a Nielsen household lol but I was a guinea pig for research. The survey they sent my way contained questions about my out of TV viewing habits: do I own a DVR, do I watch online? Etc. There was also a section in which they asked for comments. I of course being not meek went gaga over the comment section. Mostly about Chuck. After I mailed it back i got a check.

      The survey said something about my area (not my specific household per say) being representative hence the survey.

      I say they are behind definitively because they didn’t consider hulu etc. Until last year and their numbers were very, very conservative.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah they do A LOT of research apart from just ratings. I’ve done a couple of advertising reviews over the years and an Arbitron survey one season.

  4. atcdave says:

    Like Amy, I love this topic. I remember studying it way back in my business stats class (25 years ago!).

    I will make one half-hearted defense of the system; that is, 25000 is an adequate sample size if it is truly random. That is a big if. As I understand, Neilsen contacts people randomly through either phone or door-to-door solicitation. Myself and many friends of mine, answer neither the phone nor door if we don’t know who it is. So right off the bat Neilsen is limited to those viewers Neilsen can contact. I’m going to guess there may be irregularities based on age, income, education, and even personality issues that Neilsen doesn’t quite compensate for; although, to be fair, they certainly know that information on all their clients and make some effort to reconcile their data with actual demographic data.

    As for actually knowing a Neilsen viewer, you shouldn’t know if do. When you sign up with Neilsen you sign a non-disclosure agreement that says you will not mention having the box to anyone outside your household. I’m sure some do occasionally talk (I knew one Neilsen viewer who told me she was about a month before her contract was up), but they are not supposed discuss it. The Neilsen home gets a box that plugs directly into the selector so it records and transmits real time data on what is being watched; there is also a journal that is supposed to be filled out indicating exactly who is in the room watching, and how engaged they are in the program. I’ve never seen the later data reported anywhere, so I’m not sure how its used.

    I certainly would prefer to see hard data from cable/satellite boxes being used. I understand many viewers may have habits they don’t want recorded, but I really don’t see any harm in compiling impersonal total numbers. And no offense to anyone watching via the airwaves, but I strongly suspect cable/satellite viewers are considered bigger spenders and better advertising targets anyway.

    As long as advertisers fund programming via commercials and product placement, ratings of some sort will always matter. But I think we’re at a point where total revenue stream needs to be taken more seriously. That would add everything from streaming video to iTunes to disc sales to merchandise sales. The total of all those sources is what ought to matter about a show getting made or not. We already see programming done entirely for the internet or direct to disc. Many of these programs are hobbyist in nature, but not all. Stargate:SG-1 finished its run with two movies sold as discs and not aired until much later (and yes they made a profit). So programming of this nature does not need to be amateur, it can be professional. Its not too hard to imagine a series being made that doesn’t air on any channel. I’d be perfectly happy to just download Chuck or buy a disc for my weekly fix, it only requires enough revenue to make it profitable.

    • weaselone says:

      The most important factor in whether Nielsen is relevant is whether their sample is representative. Although they may be selecting people randomly with the sampling methods they utilize, it’s quite possible as you pointed out that there might be a sampling bias. In that case whether they sample 25,000 or 2.5 million households is irrelevant because their sample is not representative of US TV viewers as a whole.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah that is the big “if.” I know they make some effort to utilize demographic data. But I suspect the younger tech savvy viewers are less likely to opt in at all.

  5. ChuckNewbie8 says:

    The problem with outright painting Nielsen irrelevant is that viewerships in other media (read not reality shows) is similar. If you review the ratings you’ll also notice that the pay/per view of those same shows is similar: mainly house gets the bulk of our audience and in turn the iTunes and assorted as well. Not that we don’t hold our own but just like the DVR numbers, what bump we get other shows get as well. Also 0.08 of the pop is enough of a sample IF said sample is representative of the pop as a whole. That means the backgrounds, demo is representative of America.

    Note I’m in no way defending neilsen. I have hated that system long before pushing daisies was canceled (a long time) but I can see their point.

    The other thing to consider is NBC unlike many other networks consider what they call TAMI (total audience measurement idex). But advertisers are the bottom line.

    Re:chart I know Rafael of the boards (@keepchuckalive on twitter) is updating one. I can contact him if need be.

    • amyabn says:

      Thanks CN8. Thinkling fixed it for me. I’d like to keep this going, and also add the follow up numbers.

      OR, we could do that AND do a chart for just Chuck, showing next day ratings, the TAMI numbers, and the DVR numbers.

      Any volunteers out there? I have an out of country trip coming up (short one) but I will actually miss an episode or two.

  6. Ernie Davis says:

    This is an interesting topic, but the polls I think are asking something very pertinent. Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you want it heard? This is something that I think really hurt the music industry. They basically announced to consumers that it was their way or no way, and consumers rejected their way and found another.

  7. herder says:

    Early early numbers are in, no demos but it looks like all NBC Monday is down, Chuck 2%, Chase 7% and the Event 11 – 15%. It’s hard to predict based on these early numbers, but I’d expect Chuck to remain the same, Chase to dip a bit and the Event to take a more serious hit.

    • herder says:

      Early numbers with demos, Chuck 1.9, Chase 1.5 and the Event 2.2, last week they were 1.9, 1.7 and 2.5 respectively. It’s good that Chuck is holding steady but it does need to go up.

      • weaselone says:

        Looks like Chuck got more overall viewers last night than last week. Bodes well for a chance to be adjusted upward in the finals. Still, I’d much rather be seeing Chuck with a 2.3 or as long as we’re dreaming a 3.2 than at a 2.0 with a bit of noise from week to week.

      • weaselone says:

        So when do we have a Chuck is The main Event on NBC Mondays party?

      • herder says:

        When Chuck gets better ratings than The Event (October 25th if current trends hold) or when we get the order for the back 6/9.

      • atcdave says:

        I would expect Event to have bottomed out by now, unless the quality is actually going downhill; I mean at some point it will find a core audience that wants to stick with it. I thought last nights Chuck was really strong, it would be nice if that would translate into better numbers at some point. But if everything else is still in free fall, steady is good.

  8. DaveB says:

    Consider torrents…The day after Chuck airs, how does the number of Peers, Seeds and Leaches of, say an EZTV version of Chuck compare with House or Castle? To me it seems obvious that the Neilson numbers are hopelessly out of date, and with such a small sampling, are incapable of producing a decent margin of error, especially with the variables being in the hundreds, rather than the handful of just three decades ago.

    • aardvark7734 says:

      Pretty safe to say that the network doesn’t care about pirated shows, except as stats to buttress their claim that they’re losing revenue and spur political efforts like ACTA. Those versions have all advertisements edited out, so for monetization purposes they’re useless.

      For that matter, the money made off all non-broadcast venues is by all accounts peanuts – the various networks are still trying to figure out how to grow revenue online into something resembling their ad revenue.

      • atcdave says:

        Aardvark, have you seen actual numbers on non-broadcast revenue? I’m thinking especially of things like iTunes and DVD sales. And how do they turn a profit on direct to video productions? My guess is its more than peanuts, but I’ve never seen actual numbers for it.

      • aardvark7734 says:

        No, Dave, no access to actual revenue data, going purely off anecdotal info from network executive interviews where they state that online revenue is “pennies on the dollar” when compared to their ad revenue. If you want to see some actual online viewer numbers, you can look at NBC’s TAMi data for Chuck. It gives some sense of the proportion of online to broadcast viewers for a couple of episodes.

        You can find that info here:

        I excluded any consideration of DVD/BD or iTunes revenue since that goes straight to WB, not NBC. It’s true that networks often own their own shows and pick up that revenue, but I was kind of honing in on Chuck.

      • atcdave says:

        Sorry if I complicated the matter. I think on line viewing is an immature medium at best (may be some serious long term potential, but its not there yet). But it seems to me if WB can generate profit or close to it through other venues, they need little or nothing from a broadcaster. None of this may help Chuck, but it may be useful at some point if WB needs less from NBC.

      • aardvark7734 says:

        You know, all day today I’ve been coming off as testy, but I don’t mean to be.

        Sorry about that. 🙂

      • joe says:

        Naw,you haven’t at all, Arrdie. (I just took a look, so I know!)

        This is a fact-based thread about ratings, so all the statistical info and interpretations just don’t feel the same as writing about Sarah’s bikini. That’s a given.

        But fear not! You’re an intelligent, thoughtful and clear writer who is also an articulate schnook! 😉

      • atcdave says:

        Oh sure, Joe has to bring the bikini back into it. Now what were we talking about?

      • DaveB says:

        After looking at the numbers, it seems obvious to me that the problem with the low ratings is not the show, but the network. I think the targeting demographic considers NBC much like they would consider a Buick…

      • atcdave says:

        Dave I do agree the network is a big part of it. Its hard to draw viewers with adverising if no one is watching in the first place! But the good news is, the bar is set pretty low; Chuck only has to be competitive with other NBC shows.

  9. weaselone says:

    You might want to put Parenthood on the chart. It pulled a 2.0 and under 5 million viewers last night. Looks like a good contender to fall to 1.9 in finals. Could be another victim. Given another couple of weeks and it could fall below Chuck in demo even with the Biggest Loser lead in and a fairly easy time spot.

    • herder says:

      Also it skews heavily female (most shows skew female) as opposed to Chuck which has one of the highest male audiences (percentage wise) so Chuck is easier to sell advertising on. Parenthood runs about 67% female, Chuck about 55% male. Parenthood got the post-BL slot last year as it was one of the safest on NBC at the time, now it is turning into a problem for the network.

      Personally I’d rather see Chuck gain ratings to pass these shows, but in the current situation, I’ll take what I can get.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, ditto that. I feel bad rooting against other NBC shows, but with Chuck just treading water there’s not much else to do.

      • amyabn says:

        I feel bad too, but at the same time, a little part of me is smiling. yeah, that schadenfreude dealio, but you have to root for Chuck! They get no promotion, they’ve sacrificed by slashing their budget, but remain consistent. I’m thoroughly entertained and engaged each week. What more can a girl ask for?

  10. weaselone says:

    Looks like Undercovers pulled a 1.5 last night while SVU dropped to a 2.2 and LOLA fell to a 1.9. Ugly numbers for NBC.

    • herder says:

      Yeah, my inclination was to predict that Chuck’s numbers will go up next week, but NBC is in such a bad way that I don’t know now. L&O:SVU has to cost close to twice what Chuck does, to get a 2.2 compared to our 1.9 is brutal (as is Undercovers 1.5, Phil Klemmer wrote last night’s episode FWIW).

      • weaselone says:

        Well, we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that Chuck can maintain and even grow viewership despite the network coming down around it.

        I think SVU could bounce back, but the need to decouple if from LOLA and move it back to 10 PM.

    • JC says:

      Sad part is that might have been the best episode of Undercovers yet. The funny thing is the female lead has more chemistry with her ex than her husband. Too bad JJ didn’t see that before shooting, the show would be much better without the husband.

      • jason says:

        JC – that is really funny, I have seen all of the undercovers eps, as well as the event (which I like). Even though I am a huge shipper and fan of chuck lite, my fav show is not chuck, but is now fri night lights and prior to chuck, my fav show was 24, hence at times I do like drama, just not chuck, which I feel just does not have the chops to pull it off. Undercovers is like shaw being married to sarah, with bryce as their partner, and bryce’s fav thing to do is tell the clueless shaw character how much he liked banging sarah, with a deli as the buymore, a girl morgan, and John casey as beckman, their grumpy boss. I think at some point, these shows are starting to run out of daily spy plots, you only can make so many trips to moscow or steal / disable so many devices.

  11. amyabn says:

    I’ll update the chart tonight and get it posted, but there is a small poll on TVBTN on what show should get a full season order. I encourage folks to go over and vote for Chuck!

    • herder says:

      I’ve got to wonder if NBC isn’t at the point where which ever series that posts a week to week gain gets it’s back 6/9. Seriously, is there any NBC scripted show that has gone up from one week to the next?

      • atcdave says:

        I’m really feeling good right now about the chances of a back 9. Even S5 starts looking like a good bet unless Comcast comes in and cleans house entirely (and even then I could see Chuck being moved to one of the cable channels).

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think NBC may have done some long term damage. With the Leno hours open and cancellations they had to fill something like 13 slots, and had 19 pilots to choose from. That guaranteed only the bottom third, the worst 6 were NOT going to get a shot this fall. With that, basically no help from other shows or the network, how many producers are going to want to work with NBC? Basically only the ones who have to? Doesn’t bode well for the network, but perhaps it does for Chuck. The way things are going Chuck may be their best rated scripted show by sweeps just by maintaining it’s present ratings. I have the feeling it’ll get a back 9 just because they know SOMEBODY will still be watching Chuck come the spring.

      • atcdave says:

        Sad but true Ernie. I keep wondering how bad that Rockford Files reboot had to have been for NBC to kill it. I’d almost like to see some footage to see what the cringe factor is.

      • joe says:

        I don’t think there is, herder.

        Frankly, I’m not all that impressed with the other networks offering so far, either. Even TBBN has been “off” for me so far. And since Charlie split with Chelsea, I can take or leave 2 1/2 Men too.

        When Mike and Molly has been the only enjoyable new show on TV, something is going on. I just hope it’s not in MY head!

      • JC says:


        I think on Mo Ryan’s podcast they mentioned the Rockford Files remake is being retooled with Josh Holloway as the lead. Obviously it all depends on the scripts but with him on board I could see it being good.

      • atcdave says:

        I hope so JC, although to me the bar has been set pretty high. It’s almost like if someday someone decides to do a retool of Chuck. I’m thrilled and terrified at the same time.

    • joe says:

      Here’s the link to the pole”, Amy! Chuck was in 2nd place when I voted. Not bad!

      Oh! If you can, Amy, put (that same link) in the article too, so that people can find it and vote!

  12. patty says:

    Last summer I stayed with someone who has a Neilson box for a month. He watches Chuck,actually the whole family watches Chuck. Because of their schedule they DVR it and watch the next day. They skip the commercials (not just Chuck but basically for every non-news prime time show). I sent him a link to Magnus’ website. He called Neilson and they said that as long as he watches it before the next episode is aired it counts even if he skips the commercials. I am not sure what to believe. I tried to get him to let it run on mute live and then watch the DVR the next day but I think he feels that is cheating. Is there some sort of place that clarifies this that is more official than Magnus?

  13. atcdave says:

    I just saw one very disappointing bit of news while looking at my DVR’s “to do” list. This week’s Chuck has been pre-empted until 1:35 am in the Detroit market for a locally produced news feature on our Governor’s race. Very frustrating. I’ll have to be scarce around here from 8:00 until the wee hours. I normally stay up until 2 anyway, its not that big a deal to watch late; but I wonder about the impact this will have on the national ratings. I probably won’t write too much here that night.

    Of course I’ve known since the primary who I’m voting for, I don’t even care about their little special…

  14. amyabn says:

    I’ve updated the chart, with help from Thinkling. Chuck is the only show holding steady-the others are sinking like the Titanic!

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