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A Dangerous View of Wallenda Ratings

It isn’t quite as dangerous as walking over Niagara Falls on a wire, but it is somewhat  perilous for reporters who don’t understand television ratings and viewership to write about them.

A case in point is a paragraph in the page A5 jump of an otherwise interesting Page 1 Buffalo News story about the aftermath of the spectacular Nik Wallenda walk on Friday night. The paragraph claimed “the prime time stunt attracted 13.1 million viewers, making it the highest-rated nonsports telecast on the major networks in six years.”

That’s just laughably silly. I don’t know where The News reporters got that idea because it wasn’t attributed. I’m primarily explaining how silly the paragraph is in the hope that other media outlets don’t repeat it.

As I wrote Saturday, the two-hour ABC program that started at 9 p.m. had a 6.2 household rating in the national overnights and attracted a high of close to 13 million viewers in the 10 o’clock hour of the program.

Numerous prime time shows including “The Big Bang Theory, “NCIS” and even “American Idol” in a down year get national ratings with audiences significantly higher on a weekly basis than Wallenda’s show did when they have the benefit of running during the regular TV season on nights when more people are in front of their TV sets.

Even the hour-long wedding of Jim and Pam in Niagara Falls in an October, 2009 episode of “The Office” came close to the ratings for Wallenda’s program. It had a 5.1 national household rating.

This isn’t to minimize Wallenda’s accomplishment or the ratings success of his show. A 6.2 national rating on a Friday night – one of the two lowest viewing nights of the week – is impressive, especially in the summer even against weak network competition. ABC said it had its highest-rated Friday night in four and a half years.

But let’s not exaggerate how well the program was received nationally — or anything else about the significance of the Wallenda Walk.

pergament@msn.com

 

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