Nielsen Admits Glitch Inflated Fall Premiere Ratings

Black-ish (ABC)

Cast: Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahid, Miles Brown, Marcus Scribner, Caila Martin
Team: Kenya Barris, Larry Wilmore, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, Tom Russo, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Brian Dobbins

Centers on an upper-middle-class black man who struggles to raise his children with a sense of cultural identity despite constant contradictions and obstacles coming from his liberal wife, old-school father and his own assimilated, color-blind kids. Loosely based on the life of showrunner Kenya Barris.

A bit of news that certainly isn't going to help the broadcast networks with ratings perception issue, it turns out that Nielsen Media (the company that measures U.S. TV viewership), has been reporting figures tabulated by a technical error for the majority of 2014.

The company issued a statement Friday, noting that recent ratings irregularities have been prompted by a glitch introduced on Mar. 2 — and only uncovered on Oct. 6. The tipping point came with what Nielsen calls "high viewing levels associated with fall season premiere week." That means that the good news for some of the Big Four might not have been quite so good after all. This error has only affected broadcast nets and syndicated series — cable and local TV ratings are clean.

Not all networks and syndicators were affected, and all ratings released today, Friday Oct. 10, are sound now that a software fix was introduced on Oct. 9. All commercial data — that includes the C3 ratings the networks share with advertisers — for the current TV season will be correct when they start rolling out next week.

There are a "handful of cases," per a Nielsen release, where the impact has been significant — and the data affected represented between 0.1 percent and 0.25 percent of all nationally-credited viewing minutes. ABC looks to be the be the only network that will see downward adjustments, with its improved showings between Fast National and Final ratings likely being the most-inflated data.

As for the fall season ratings will see noticeable adjustments, Nielsen will reissue those on Oct. 17 after they've been reprocessed. That will include series that have aired since Sept. 22, the official start of the season, while further reissues (dating back to Aug. 18) will arrive at the end of the month.