How Can We Know How Many People Watch a TV Show?

Every television program receives a Nielsen rating, numbers in percentage form that show how many people watched that show. The ratings are provided by a firm called the A.C. Nielsen Company.

The company puts electronic boxes on about 1,170 TV sets around the country. These boxes register what channel each set was tuned to when it was on, and how long that channel remained on.

The 1,170 homes that are studied by the Nielsen Company are made up of the same mix of people that the whole population is made up of. So when a show gets a rating of, let’s say, 25, it means that 25 percent of the homes with a Nielsen box watched that show. People who work in television then figure that about 25 percent of all the homes in America with television watched that show.

The highest rated show of all time was the last episode of Roots, which first aired in 1977. The program received a rating of 51, which means that about 37 million TV sets in America were tuned in to that program!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

2 thoughts on “How Can We Know How Many People Watch a TV Show?”

  1. I have always been suspicious about the reliability of the ratings that TV programs get. I never knew how this process is done and whether or not it is just profit-driven. I thought I would try to get to know the A.C. Nielsen Company first as a firm before I would believe whatever they say. I appreciate your post though. It gave me insights on how they are able come up with their ratings. Good job!

  2. everyone has different tastes, it would be impossible to accuratly judge 300 million + people’s viewing habits based on a little more than 1 thousand people…

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