Why are US TV ratings so poor?


Active Member
Nov 4, 2016
Why are US TV ratings so poor? The US has 5 times the population of the UK yet ratings for the main 5 UK/US networks are similar? America's Got Talent/Chicago PD/NCIS are regarded as big popular mainstream shows yet only get ratings like top UK shows. You could say people just record them now and watch later but not Delayed Viewing Figures don't add much. It's said the US has a lot more channel and cable is more popular yet it's not like lots of programs are getting millions of viewers on cable either. You'd expect big US programs to get tens of millions of viewers when you compare the population to the UK?


Active Member
Jun 27, 2018
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
The audience measurement scene in USA has been going through a lot lately. Nielsen, the dominant player in the field, has been suspended of its accreditation, after going under fire by TV networks for underreporting viewer stats (but it's still measuring viewers). Networks and advertisers are increasingly cautious of Nielsen's rating especially in the backdrop of the trend of 'cord-cutting' - ditching cable or even free-to-air TV in favor of streaming.

PS: I am not American, but I know this is happening.


Well-Known Member
Sep 16, 2013
Brierley Hill, UK
As a Brit, I can post about the UK perspective of things:

1. Public Service Broadcasting: Unlike the U.S., the major four broadcasters have to provide a service to the public and must offer a variety of programming of what the public wants in terms of entertainment, arts and culture. Here, we have to pay a TV licence per household just for owning a single TV and with that, you make the most of it, Netflix is popular, but if you watch it on a TV, you have to own a licence, so you might as well watch the channels on it.

2. Digital Terrestrial Television is more developed in the UK and the U.S., in the U.S. "subchannels" are not that much of a developed concept, here it's been a thing since 1998, making it more worthwhile to watch TV, also the catch-up services for the main channels are usually pretty good.

3. Consistency of British TV: On UK TV there's cornerstone shows such as soaps that fetch millions of views on weekdays, on Fridays expect comedy panel shows, Saturday nights expect game shows and variety shows, and on Sunday expect a movie in the afternoon, a drama, or a factual/documentary show. People subconsciously know when these shows are on TV just by the type of show it is.

4. Presentation: Presentation on UK TV is a lot better that U.S. television which makes it more enticing to watch, content wise, the U.S. is better in terms of programming due to larger budgets, whereas UK television operates on smaller budgets but are more resourceful. Even the adverts can be pretty good, just to keep people watching, as they're competing against the adless BBC.

5. The Weather: It can be rather wet and dull here during the Autumn/Winter, and when you're slightly tired and there's nothing better to do, you put on TV (or do some other form of home entertainment).
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Well-Known Member
Sep 10, 2006
In A House
I think it’s because of streaming. I know lots of people who basically never watch anything on “regular” tv, live or DVR’d, and only watch streaming services exclusively.


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