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What does share mean in TV ratings?

In TV media planning, a share refers to the percentage of households that is exposed to an advertisement, measured against the total number of households who were watching television at that specific time.

A share is an important metric used to measure the success of a campaign, as it indicates preferences, pointing to an audience's desire to engage with a specific program, channel or network at any given time.

Shares as TV channel viewing statistics

For example, if an advertiser buys an ad slot during the Upfronts for sometime midway through a new crime show’s season the upcoming fall, the share may be quite high if the new show is a big hit. The show’s popularity effectively draws households to tune in to that channel at that specific airtime, thus lending more exposure to the ad. The opposite is also true. If an ad is aired during primetime – typically 8pm-11pm in eastern standard time zones, for example  – when a large number of households turn on their televisions, but a show is performing poorly, the share percentage of an ad played on that channel during primetime will be low.

Since the audience in question has already chosen to tune-in to television that night, a certain level of predictability is already implied. There is no need to predict factors that contributed to the household’s desire to tune-in, and the focus when measuring a share becomes more about their willingness to watch an ad to completion without changing channels, or the programming wrapped around the ad’s popularity, which influences their likelihood of being in front of the ad.

TV Rating vs Share

One common scenario in which a share is valued over a rating for measuring the effectiveness of an ad is if the ad is geared towards a specific, time-sensitive event. For example, a holiday sale that runs through the last week of December requires high engagement in the weeks prior to be successful. The goal could be to place the ad around highly-engaged TV shows, where households are highly engaged, be attentive to the ad, and likely to act on the sale offering.

At Simulmedia, our TV+® platform measures audience engagement holistically across channels. Our proprietary technology gathers anonymous viewership data from millions of set-top boxes, sources it through patented algorithms, and optimizes campaigns across both linear TV and connected TV (CTV). What you’re provided with are 360-degree strategies that analyze the cost-efficiency of the combinations of platforms, audiences and timing for your ad placement so that you can reach more unduplicated audiences who are likely to be highly engaged and convert into customers.

While a share may measure gross reach against the general TV viewing population, it doesn’t take into account the quality of those eyeballs — it doesn’t consider which households and what percentage of the viewing population is actually an effective match for your target audience, and therefore a likely customer. This means that relying on share alone runs the risk of prioritizing the largest reach of general interest households who passively absorb your ad – or even worse, absorb your ad and are left with a negative impression because it was a poor fit for their needs and interests.

We take a customer-first approach to ad planning, buying and placement, and prioritizes reaching audiences who will care the most. The TV+ platform gathers all of the variables in place and gives you data-proven predictability, so you’re left with an actionable plan that makes your ad dollars work.