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UPDATE: KO's ratings were up 9-14 % not 33 % as claimed in USA TODAY.
Peter Johnson of USA Today, in his exegisis on rants on cable TV, provides yet another example of how members of the TCA find new ways to work Keith Olbermann into a column/ As usual, the plug comes with yet another formulation of the "Keith's Ratings Are Surging!" line which is apparently required under the TCA charter. This time some cherry-picked numbers are slapped together to produce this gem "Olbermann's four "special comments" since Aug. 30 have driven ratings up 33% to 495,000."
Let's check the math, shall we?
According to the always reliable TVNewser, KO had 484,000 viewers on August 30th, the date cited by Johnson. I don't know where he got 495,000 (the piece does not say and I could not find it after skimming TVN). Regardless, 495,000 viewers from the 484,000 on August 3oth is only an increase of 2%. Perhaps he was looking at some recent ratings data? Well, the most recent numbers published when the paper went to bed were those from Sept. 21 (452,000) which is a DECLINE of 7%. Hmmm. Maybe Johnson got this data from the day before? Well that doesn't work either since KO had 414,000 viewers which is a decline of 17%. Maybe this is just special OlbyLoon math where the quotient (Keith's ratings are up 33%) can be "accurate" even when the variables plugged into the equation can be "fake".
CORRECTION: After exchanging emails with Peter Johnson, I rewrote the opening sentence. It had originally read "Peter Johnson of USA Today finds yet another way to work Keith Olbermann into a TV critic column with his exegisis on rants on cable TV". I agreed that this conveyed the false impression that Johnson had written many other articles on Keith Olbermann. That sentence should have conveyed my belief that Johnson's article contained another example of "Keith Boosting" by the MSM.
He also passed along the data sent to him by MSNBC's PR department:
As of September 19, Keith is up +43% in the demo (25-54) and +33% with P2+ since his first rant (which was on August 30). Here are the actual numbers week by week:
Wk of 8/21: 149 419
Wk of 8/28: 169 416
Wk of 9/4: 187 476
Wk of 9/11: 213 556
Wk of 9/18: 180 495
In my reply to Johnson, after agreeing to edit my post, I wrote "The first set of numbers include two nights when Keith was on vacation and a night when NO ONE was watching much cable news - the Friday before the Labor Day weekend. So, the baseline numbers are "artificially" depressed. If you check you will see that the initial pickup in ratings Keith got from the first "rant" was the following week beginning on that Tuesday after the blue blogs flogged KO's Rummy Rant for several days; if you were to use THAT as a baseline you'd find that Keith has LOST viewers as he has continued to go to the "special comment" well. The last set of numbers is also misleading because they include two heavily promoted "events" one of which was not a rant - KO's bizarre "unacceptable to think" rant on Monday but more importantly his Clinton interview on Friday. I don't have those numbers yet but if 495K is right then by interpolation he got about 618,000 on Friday. Given this, I think it is fair to say that your use of the numbers provided by MSNBC sent are not clear and that those numbers themselves are misleading.
UPDATE: I just got hold of the Friday numbers for Countdown (424/162) and they tell an interesting tale. I got the first four days of last week from TVN and Friday from a second source. Here they are together:
424/162 - 9/22 - Fri
452/148 - 9/21 - Thurs
415/147 - 9/20 - Wed
444/187 - 9/19 - Tues
547/173 - 9/18 - Mon
If you take the average for all five days you get 456,000 viewers. The 495,000 figure apparently comes from averaging just the first two days of the week. But recall that MSNBC said KO had a 33% increase and based that on comparing week to week data on their note to Johnson.
The correct comparison would be 456,000 for the week of 9/18 v. 416,000 for the week of 8/30 which means KO had a 9% increase not 33% as claimed. It sure looks like MSNBC attempted to pass off 2 days of ratings data as an average for the full week in order to misrepresent KO's "success" to USA TODAY. I will be asking Johnson to comment further (but it's late so don't expect a reply until tomorrow).
UPDATE: TVN just posted the Friday numbers and he is reporting a very different number for Friday - 525/174. Now, regular readers will know that we caught Brian fiddling with the ratings data before so there is no telling whether my original source got it wrong, whether Brian got it wrong or whether the discrepency is just a function of the infamous "Live Plus' data issue. Although that is an awfully big difference. But, in either case, I ran those numbers too and they come out to a weekly average of 476.6 which means Keith would be up 14%, still well below the 33% claimed by USA Today.
UPDATE: Here's how I know I am on to something with these ratings numbers - when Becky at Relevant Torture agrees with me: Except that ratings thing. Countdown's ratings have been the same rollercoaster they've always been since KO has stepped up the "special comments." Sometimes they spike, sometimes they tank. I'm not getting excited about the ratings until the year-to-year comparisons are out.