PBS signs for national Nielsen ratings


PBS announced that for the first time ever, the non-commercial network has implemented a full-time Nielsen ratings service providing comprehensive demographic ratings weekly for 40+ nationally distributed programs, including children’s and general audience shows. PBS hopes to use the ratings data to attract sponsors for programming.

Under the new agreement, PBS programming will be measured every week, with ratings available alongside those of other measured media in Nielsen tools and in the same timeframe. Primetime programs being measured include, among others, “Antiques Roadshow,” “Masterpiece Theater,” “PBS NewsHour,” “NOVA,” “Nature” and “Frontline.” Children’s favorites being measured include “Curious George,” “SuperWhy!,” “Sid the Science Kid,” “Dinosaur Train” and, of course, “Sesame Street.”
PBS said the new Nielsen measurement will provide media agencies with more knowledge about PBS audiences in order to create better media plans for their clients – which may include sponsorship of PBS programming. “Through improved data reporting, agencies will be able to better understand how PBS sponsorship will benefit their clients and make informed, compelling recommendations.  And, once sponsorship is secured, the new data will help the agencies provide their clients with more timely and complete data about sponsorship performance,” the announcement stated.
“PBS is meeting the evolving needs of our program supporters, who are essential partners in making our content available to the public. We continue to introduce new, innovative solutions to better meet our partners’ needs. The new Nielsen ratings service will provide current and potential sponsors with a detailed picture of the diverse audiences our programs serve,” said Andrew Russell, Senior Vice President, PBS Ventures.

The new measurement service debuted with the premiere of Ken Burns’s “The Naitonal Parks: America’s Best Idea,” reporting the documentary received an overall household average audience rating of 3.5, and averaged five and a half million viewers per episode. 

While PBS has held a Nielsen contract since the 1980s, the new service marks a significant upgrade from 12 sample weeks to 52 weeks a year. Now PBS program ratings will be continuously measured every week and reported through Nielsen’s online data systems for PBS and the rest of the media industry to access.

PBS provides programming to 355 member stations across the United States.