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Blackout Knocks Out Nielsen Data

There are delays and adjustments, but, like the U.S. mail, the Nielsen ratings eventually get through. Not surprisingly, though, because of the Aug. 14 blackout in much of the Northeast, problems with collecting data in multiple cities affected the release of Nielsen ratings for both national and metered-market overnights for broadcast network, syndication and cable.

The national ratings for programming from Thursday, Aug. 14 through Saturday, Aug. 16 were "broken out," or separated, meaning that they won't count toward—or, in this case, against—season averages. Nielsen does that whenever coverage drops by more than 10%. Blackout-related coverage declines totaled about 15%, according to a Nielsen spokesman. Sunday, Aug. 17 programming was considered business as usual and counted toward season averages.

There were no overnight network and syndicated metered market ratings for New York and Detroit on Aug. 14 and 15 nor for Buffalo, N.Y., on Aug. 15. Nationwide, there are 55 metered markets.

National syndication numbers for Aug. 14 will also likely be affected, particularly for shows that have clearances after 4:15 p.m. ET, when the blackout occurred. Release of national syndication numbers for the week ended Aug. 10 were delayed until last Thursday (they would ordinarily have come two days earlier), in part because of client-reporting delays. Ratings for the blackout week of Aug. 11-17 are expected to be out this Wednesday.

Although cable ratings for Thursday-Saturday were also separated, cable breakouts are not treated in the same way, so the effect is expected to be negligible.