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Research Guides

Communication Studies: TV Ratings

This subject guide is a starting point for communication-related research, including mass media, speech communication, and more.

Finding TV Ratings - Current TV Season

These sources provide lists of the top 10 to 20 shows airing this season and analysis about the ratings. 

Finding TV Ratings - Past Seasons

Audience Measurement

Nielsen has been historically recognized as the measurement standard for television.  Nielsen now owns Arbitron which was historically recognized as the measurement standard for radio.  As media moves to the Internet, competition has grown for audience measurement. Market research is sold at high costs to advertisers. Given this corporate relationship, market research has been difficult (too expensive) to get for academics and public policy research.  Here are some of the most cited companies:

Search Databases for Articles - Keyword searching

Ratings information is proprietary and very expensive.  Lucky for us, large companies and publishers can afford access to the data so that they can publish bits of it in their articles.  Search library databases for articles that include ratings and viewership information.  Sample searches:

  • glee and rating*
  • (black-ish or blackish) and rating*
  • "real world" and viewer*
  • "keeping up with the kardashians" and (rating* or viewer*)

Search Databases for Articles - Subject searching

Some databases have official subjects for ratings information.  Use a keyword search to find an article about ratings/viewership and then see which subject(s) are assigned to the article. Insert that subject into your search to find other articles with that subject.

Here are a few subject search examples:

 Academic Search Complete

Reader's Guide Retrospective