Some hard spin from NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’

NBC News sent out a press release on Thursday touting a “Meet the Press” ratings victory under the subject-heading: ““MEET THE PRESS” IS THE #1 SUNDAY PUBLIC AFFAIRS HOUR FOR JUNE 15, 2014.”

In the release, NBC stated that “Meet” was “the most-watched Sunday morning public affairs hour in both total viewers and the key news demo on June 15, 2014, according to Nielsen Media Research data.” Seemingly big news, as the beleaguered Sunday show has been struggling in the ratings race[1] amid negative press reports[2] about its host, David Gregory.

The release is actually a master class in spin. Because “Meet” was the No. 2 Sunday public affairs show among total viewers and the No. 3 show in the key news demo for June 15, 2014. In fact, Sunday’s “Meet” registered the lowest total viewers since July 5, 1992.

In an email, NBC News spokesperson Erika Masonhall stood by the claim that “Meet the Press” was No. 1 and suggested that other networks were guilty of spin: “Others may try to parse the numbers,” she wrote, “but in an apples-to-apples, hour-to-hour comparison of the official Sunday show ratings, ‘Meet the Press’ was number one.”

That’s true only if you selectively interpret CBS’s “Face the Nation” ratings and entirely ignore ABC’s “This Week.”

First, you’ll notice the release states that “Meet” was the No. 1 “hour,” as opposed to the No. 1 “show.” It does so on the grounds that CBS’s “Face the Nation” claims half-hour ratings despite the fact that it airs for a full hour in a majority of markets. This frustrates both NBC and ABC to no end. CBS News President David Rhodes promised[3] in 2012 that CBS would begin to rate for the full hour after the end of the 2012-2013 NFL season, but the network has yet to do so.

Nevertheless, Nielsen rates “Face the Nation” accordingly, and for June 15, “Face” registered 2,709,000 total viewers and 687,000 viewers in the demo — putting it ahead of NBC’s “Meet” on both counts. 

But what about ABC’s “This Week”? The NBC press release ignored it entirely. It did so because “Week” aired out of its usual time slot in nearly a third of its markets on account of the World Cup and other sporting events. In Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and several other markets, “This Week” aired in the middle of the night — literally between midnight and 3 a.m. When this happens, networks “retitle” the show so that the drop in that day’s ratings doesn’t effect their overall season average.

Trouble is, even with the show airing in the middle of the night in 30 percent of its markets, “This Week” still had more viewers in the coveted 25-to-54 demo than “Meet the Press” did. “Meet the Press” brought in 594,000 viewers in the demo, putting it behind ABC’s “This Week,” which topped with 723,000 — despite the fact that the show didn’t air in several major markets.

Now, it goes without saying that NBC News isn’t the only one that spins. CBS’s refusal to rate by the full hour may be the greatest spin of all, though they would argue that it would be unfair to do so until “Face” airs in 100 percent of markets. ABC’s decision to push a victory in the demo — it sent out its own press release Thursday — after asking Nielsen to disregard the numbers is its own form of spin.

But the NBC press release was particularly crafty. It was written to make you believe that “Meet” was the No. 1 show in both total viewers and the demo for June 15, 2014. And the truth is, it wasn’t.

References

  1. ^ struggling in the ratings race (www.politico.com)
  2. ^ negative press reports (www.politico.com)
  3. ^ promised (www.mediabistro.com)

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