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Television Program Ratings


Each week, the news media report the top rated, most watched, television network programs. Teachers can easily locate this week’s ratings figures and/or a news story related to the ratings by going to TV By The NumbersUSA TODAY also lists the previous week’s ratings in the Wednesday edition of the paper (look in the LIFE section, under TELEVISION.)

Weekly Ratings

Magazines TV Week (click graphic above) and Entertainment Weekly  also have a downloadable page of the week’s ratings.For a list of the top 15 cable programs of the week, click here. (NOTE, click on CABLE SERIES, to get the latest list.)

NOTE: Ratings for all of a week’s network programs are available in a handy one page format in the weekly professional publication Broadcasting and Cable.

Before beginning this lesson/activity, it will be important to provide students with some background.

BACKGROUND In the television industry, the audits of people’s television viewing behavior that help determine where much of the money goes are called ratings. One firm, Nielsen Media Research, dominates this business. The stations, networks, and major advertisers foot most of the bill for the firm’s reports. Nielsen uses meters and diaries to determine viewing numbers.
(source: Media Today, An Introduction to Mass Communication, by Joseph Turow,  Houghton-Mifflin, 1999 pg 280)

Teachers: For an excellent backgrounder, read this history of  The Nielsens.
Have your students read The Ratings Game and/or print out this backgrounder from How Stuff Works: How Do TV Ratings Work?

Recommended teaching resource:
Mass Communication How Television Ratings Work (DVD)

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