The late great NBC programming boss, Brandon Tartikoff, once called TV ratings “the box score of the ‘90s.” That was back when shows such as Cheers, Frasier and Friends competed to see who was the most “Must See” of the week.

Those were the B.S. years – Before Streaming. Viewers haven’t been stuck with broadcast network schedules since phones became smart. Streaming competition and the changing media landscape has knee-capped broadcast ratings. The network’s share of the pie gets thinner every year. While 20- or 10-million broadcast viewers once was the measure of a hit in America, two or three million can now get a show renewed. In Canada, even big-budget US imports struggle to inch past the million mark.

This is not a new story. Tranditional broadcast networks have seen the size of their audiences shrink for over a decade. By how much is less well known in Canada. That is because, close to four years ago, Numeris, the sole provider of viewership numbers for television and radio broadcasters in Canada (and founded by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters), stopped sharing their weekly Top-30 program rankings.

Back then, you might still see seven, eight, nine or even ten of thr Top-10 shows in Canada soar past the one million viewer mark. Generally they would all be imported simulcasts of everything from Survivor and NCIS or The Good Doctor and The Masked Singer. A few would even approach or even top two million.

Some of the dilution is because viewers migrated to digital platforms such as StackTV or to get their weekly NCIS or Amazing Race fix. The old Top-30 was just one of severl charts advertisers looked at and no longer the whole picture. Still, the raw broadcast ratings looked bad. Not sharing them, however, looks worse and has left a lot of observers in Canada with uninformed and unrealistic expectations.

When the recent Juno Awards, for example, was charted at 672,000 overnight, same day CBC viewers, there was some handwringing in the music industry. Thing is, that’s actually a pretty strong broadcast number, especially at CBC, as I argue in my first column for Billboard Canada. You can read that article here.


That March 24 audience was up 36 per cent over the Juno overnights the year previous. Ovet the two hours of the brodcast, it beat all but two other shows simulcast by competitors at CTV and Global. It trounced, for example, the broadcast take the same night on Big Brother Canada. Plus the awards show also saw a year-to-year surge in digital views.

I know I’m tilting at windmills suggesting that not sharing the weekly Live+7 data is actually creating an expectation disconnect in Canada. I don’t think, however, that I’m the only one who misses those weekly box scores.

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