The other day, I stumbled upon the Nielsen media ratings website. As a political analyst, I’m usually called upon to convert raw data into conclusions, and those conclusions into messages. But, just for fun, I thought I’d put the same skills to practice in analyzing what the current top TV shows say about America.
People like watching actors do anything other than act
That’s the conclusion that can be drawn from the fact that nearly 20 million Americans watched “Dancing With the Stars”—the top rated show in America last week. There’s no evidence to suggest that all of these actors thrown together in a single scripted series would draw even a fraction of the audience, which is probably why they glommed onto this opportunity in the first place. But put them in front of a live studio audience, where they can’t hide behind the words written for them by someone else, and the authenticity is enticing.
Contrary to media hype, no one really cares to watch regular people on TV
For all the talk and press around all the “Real Housewives of [Blank]” unscripted programming, these shows just don’t rank. Thus, Americans are disconnected from their media, which consistently finds these characters fascinating, charting and reporting their every move. Entertainment Tonight, featuring celebrity publicity puff jobs, has a higher viewership than the highest ranked of all these “reality” programs: “Jersey Shore 2.”
The cable news race is like a fight for a participation ribbon
Fox News crushes CNN and MSNBC. We’ve heard that so many times that it has become a meme. But guess what? Every one of the top 10 shows on the Hispanic network, Univision, beat Fox’s top program (The O’Reilly Factor—3.5 million viewers), as did WWE Raw’s fake wrestling (4.9 million). Proof that shows making the most noise aren’t necessarily what people are paying attention to.
African-Americans don’t watch Oprah
We might want to debunk this ridiculous idea that networks have to hire people of a certain ethnicity in order to appeal to viewers of that same ethnicity. While Oprah ranks seventh overall in syndicated programming rankings, she doesn’t even make the top 10 among African-Americans. Judging by the ratings, if she wants to crack the African-American audience, she should tackle her guests and punt prizes into her studio audience (NBC Sunday Night Football ranks as their No. 1 programming choice).
Americans would rather watch fake investigations than real ones