As The Office winds down its last season (mercifully) and things come to their conclusion, a new report about the ratings published by the Nielsen Company has brought to light that a loophole in their system may have given the series - and others - extra life.
Once a week the company publishes its popularity rankings, a practice that it has done for years. However, the advent of new media services to watch programs has changed the very idea of watching television. Are you watching TV when you stream something on Netflix?
Nielsen has tried to answer that question and finally is making some changes, beginning this September, when it will measure viewership on broadband devices for the first time.
"The ratings are a very one-dimensional look at what is happening," said Alan Wurtzel, top research executive at NBC Universal, "and we now live in a very multi-dimensional world."
Currently, the Nielsen ratings count people who watch a program live or later that same day on DVR, through midnight on the West Coast. They also track viewership plus three, which is how ad rates are set. Measures used to track viewers weekly or monthly are also done, but are less impactful to the networks.
These numbers can drastically change how a show is perceived and how popular it is. In fact, if going just off the day through midnight viewings, NBC likely would have cancelled The Office early on in its run, as those numbers were not stellar, but when fleshed out more, they showed more promise.
"The idea of how many people are watching a program and caring about the show becomes increasingly important, and it is not reflected in the Tuesday report," Wurtzel said.
Other shows, such as Modern Family, The Following and Elementary, to name a few, are much bigger successes when viewed through this prism.