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Millennium's Nielsen Ratings - Statistical Charts and Analysis

In the second part of our unique look at the Nielsen Ratings for Chris Carter's Millennium television series, we plot the statistical data onto graphs and Libby provides an analysis of the rating trends.

Nielsen Ratings are audience measurement systems developed by Nielsen Media Research to determine the audience size and composition of television programming. Nielsen operates in over 100 countries and was founded in 1923.

The system has been updated and modified extensively since it was developed in the early 1940s by Arthur Nielsen. It has since been the primary source of audience measurement information in the television industry around the world. Since television as a business makes money by selling audiences to advertisers, the Nielsen Television Ratings are the single most important element in determining advertising rates, schedules, and program content.

The company is part of the Nielsen Company, formerly known as VNU and owned by a consortium of private equity firms including Blackstone Group, KKR and Carlyle Group. Its US production operations are located in its Brooker Creek Global Technology and Information Center in Oldsmar, Florida. Its UK operations are based in Oxford.


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Ratings/share and total viewers

The most commonly cited Nielsen results are reported in two measurements: ratings points and share, usually reported as (ratings points/share). A single national ratings point represents one percent of the total number of households for the season. Share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the program.

For example, Nielsen may report a show as receiving a 9.2/15 during its broadcast, meaning that on average 9.2 percent of households were tuned in at any given moment (i.e. how many televisions in the country were in use at that time). Additionally, 15 percent of all televisions in use at the time were tuned into this program (i.e. how many of those televisions were watching this particular show). Nielsen re-estimates the number of households each August for the upcoming television season.

Courtesy of Wikipedia contributors, "Nielsen Ratings," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Ratings.


Millennium Episode Profiles

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Millennium's Ratings

Contributed by Libby

This review of Millennium's ratings won't contain much in the way of statistics, in part because the graphs tell their own story reasonably well, but mostly because advance statistics causes this contributor a headache.

The numbers are ratings points, and represent the percentage of households who tuned into a particular show.

From the graphs, we can see that the pilot debuted well, but the following episode (Gehenna) dropped four points. A drop from the pilot of any show, or the premiere episode of any season, is to be expected as people check out a new show or a returning show. Added to this was the amount of promotion that Fox did, especially in marketing Millennium to X-Files fans, etc. As for why so many people didn't stay with the show, there are various reasons that I recall seeing on the internet (and others may have their own recollections) amongst which were that some people felt it was just too gruesome and dark, and some people thought it would be similar to the X-Files and were disappointed.

The shape of the graphs illustrate the show's decline over the three years. In discussing the figures I've excluded the first episode in each season. The reason for doing so is that the first episode in each season for most shows tends to be higher because networks tend to spend more on advertising a show just before each season in an attempt to grab the attention of potential viewers. The ratings points for subsequent episodes tend to settle down from the initial high point. Also, in the case of MM the ratings points for the pilot would need to be excluded, because it was so high in comparison with subsequent episodes that it would skew the average considerably.

Each season-ender rated lower than the start of the season, but the trend in each season is a little different:

I've calculated the average ratings point for each season (episode 2 to final):

Comparing the points for the second and last episode in each season gives a rough comparison of ratings drop:

There are further statistical comparisons that can be made for each season, such as the percentage difference between the highest rated episode (excluding the first episode) and the lowest rated, but these can often become meaningless because there are various reasons why more or fewer people watch a particular episode.

Some examples are:

The amount and type of advertising done by the network. This is not just the quality of the promotions, but also where those promotions were placed. Those who were watching first-run episodes of Millennium in USA/Canada may be able to recall whether Fox's advertising team did a good or poor job in this.

People's reactions to the previous episode, or what they heard about the previous episode, can have an influence as to whether they watch the following episode. Ratings can be skewed in that a rise or fall in the rating for one particular episode may be influenced by a positive or negative reaction to the previous one.

One aspect that I find puzzling is the ratings for both of Darin Morgan's episodes. Since by season 2 of Millennium, Darin was one of the most favourite X-Files writers, I would have anticipated that X-Files fans would have tuned in for his episodes. However, his first episode dropped just over a point from the previous episode, which is surprising as this was the "Jose Chung" episode. His second episode, though, rose just under a point from the previous.

This is the stage where I feel that further statistical analysis becomes meaningless, especially as now, several years later, it is almost impossible to compare Millennium's ratings against other shows that were airing at the same time or to know what else was happening generally that may have turned people's attention elsewhere. It is certainly the case that there has been a decline in TV viewing over recent years, particularly as internet usage has grown, and many shows illustrate a similar decline during their lifetime.