Speed Reads

numbers don't lie (unless they do)

Nielsen has been screwing up its network TV ratings since March

There are few forces more powerful in the TV world than Nielsen Ratings, which track the size and demographics of television audiences (and directly impact the amount a network can charge advertisers to run commercials on a TV show). But thanks to a "software bug," Nielsen has been misreporting the ratings of broadcast and syndicated TV shows — and they've been doing it since March.

In a conference call, Nielsen conceded that an internal investigation uncovered an error that resulted in inflated ratings for the broadcast networks. The organization stressed that "98 to 99 percent" of ratings would be affected by less than .05 percent of a ratings point.

That leaves a "handful of cases" where the inflation was far greater. (Multiple outlets have speculated that ABC benefitted most from the inflated ratings, though Nielsen executives declined to comment.) In any case, the full impact of the error will be obvious on October 13, when Nielsen will issue revised ratings based on accurate data.