October 27th, 2010
05:39 PM ET
This week marks the start of the fall television "sweeps."
"Writers and actors always want to do their best work, but 'sweep' is a word that is kind of like the [word] playoffs for the athlete. It just brings an extra level of competition, an extra level of desire,” said Mitch Metcalf, executive vice president of Program Planning and Scheduling for NBC.
Sweeps came about several decades ago when media data and research company Nielsen would literally sweep the nation, measuring the audience of local TV stations so the stations could set local advertising rates.
Today, however, 50 percent of the local stations across the nation get daily ratings, so sweeps is primarily for the other 50 percent: the small and rural stations that don’t measure their audiences daily.
The process itself has also changed quite a bit over the years. Networks have gone from one-time specials and movies to keeping their regular schedules and adding big-time movie stars to original episodes of current shows to entice audiences to tune in.
“Technology has changed,” said Metcalf. “[Sweeps is] not quite the battle ground it use to be but we pay very close attention to it.”
For more with Metcalf about sweeps, its history and why it is so important to networks, stations, viewers and our TV culture, check out the audio below.
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