So, if you skip past the commercials, changed channel for whatever reason (like check in to see how Dancing With the Stars was going, your House viewing wouldn't count as a view. According to Seidman, "that probably represented at least 60 percent of the viewing. People who are watching live can't stop the commercials, they can change the channel at the break, and people do that."
Nielsen families check in every half hour, even for an hour show. "So for example," Seidman further explain, "let's say that you were in a Nielsen home, and let's also say you didn't have a DVR so you were watching live." If you switch to something else during the commercials and you end up watching a total of 45 minutes of House (which is the approximate length of a commercial-free episode), you would register as only .75 viewer--less than a complete viewer! "Because," said Seidman, "for one quarter of the hour you were watching something else."
Of course that's true of any show, and people who look at the numbers for a living are accustomed to that. The numbers are really just averages. And that number changes depending on whether you are looking at "live" viewers, "same-day DVR" viewers, or people who watch a DVR'd episode within a week.
On, now to the next number "5.8/9." Seidman explained that 5.8 percent of households (not individual viewers this time) with televisions, "whether they were home or not, were watching House on average for the hour. The nine represents share and the share represents" the number of people watching House of all those who were watching television at that time. "And so, it's 5.8 percent of all households, 9 percent of the all households watching TV."
And, now finally that last number 3.6/10 18-49. It reflects the ratings Holy Grail it seems, and the one most coveted by the networks and its advertisers (and dare I say series producers). "The 18 to 49 number," explained Seidman, "is probably the most useful, commonly widely reported number available. As a general rule for broadcast primetime shows, that's the group that's targeted by advertisers." And as all but the most innocent of TV watchers knows, "TV is really not about giving viewers content," but about "selling them soap." And this is the number the advertisers really care about. Of course, those of us no longer in the prize demo tend to feel a bit dismissed. Why this number, when so many over-50s watch so much television. Don't the advertisers care about them.
Seidman explained that it's not that the advertisers think those in the over-50 crowd are so "set in their ways and they're not going to listen" to what advertisers are selling. "Though, I'm sure," he added, "that there's some of that." He also explained that it's "not just because the 55-year-old guy" isn't buying that new trendy car "aimed at very young adults."