During the Jan. 8 AFC wild-card game on CBS, the network ran a spot that claimed ”more than 80 million viewers have made Cold Case one of TV?s most watched dramas.” To which the EW Truth Police replied, On what planet are 80 million people tuning in to Cold Case? Last we looked, the drama was ranked 11th in the Nielsens, averaging 15.65 million viewers per week — behind more popular crime shows like CSI (25.99 million per week) and Without a Trace (19.04 million). What gives? Turns out the inflated number is technically accurate, albeit somewhat misleading: Nielsen allows networks to brag about cumulative audience growth during the season. That means those 80 million people represent every first-time viewer who tuned in to the series for six minutes or more since September 2005 (in comparison, the 15.65 million reflects the average number of viewers watching an entire episode at the same time). ”The public is getting the message that it?s a very popular TV show,” says CBS? head of research, David Poltrack, defending the promo. ”[The ad buyers] know the difference between cume and average audiences. Nobody believes it reaches 80 million people per minute, so no one is really confused by it.” Except us.
Posted January 20 2006 — 12:00 AM EST
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