Television networks are relying on scheduling tricks to help juice their ratings numbers — including renaming shows and labeling them as "specials" so that they won’t be counted in low-rated weeks, reports Bill Carter in The New York Times.
That approach was used by ABC’s "Good Morning America," which during the last week of 2011 labeled four broadcasts as "special" and renamed them "Good Morning Amer," the story says. Leaving out that week of ratings from the show’s national ratings meant that the network could claim "Good Morning America" ended 2011 closer to rival "Today" on NBC, with the smallest margin in 16 years, the article notes.
"This is the kind of programming sleight of hand that executives seize on as they seek to gain every possible edge in the television ratings game, at a time when each tenth of a point or two enhances their standing in the nightly ratings and the ability to pitch to advertisers who spend billions of dollars a year," Carter writes.
But the tricks don’t translate into higher ad dollars, the story adds.
"The tricks themselves are familiar to most in the business: Smart commercial buyers know when the ratings are being spun for a better story in the media or a claim in a print ad, and they insist on paying for the real ratings, not the artificially enhanced versions," according to the piece.
Other tricks include front-loading national commercials toward the start of a show and extending episodes for a minute or two into the next hour, the article says.