Decoding TV Terms

TV Time is Confusing!

Take a broadcast day, it starts at 6 am and goes to 5:59 am the next day. So a spot airing at calendar day Sunday 3 am is not considered a broadcast Sunday airing but instead a broadcast Saturday airing. The simple question, “how much did we spend on Sunday?” needs to be followed by the question “do you mean the calendar day or the broadcast day?”  This issue can be important if an advertiser has a sale that ends at midnight and does not want a creative message to run after the sale has ended.

The broadcast week term piles on to the confusion. The week starts on Monday rather than Sunday and at 6 am rather than midnight. 

Hey, what about the broadcast month? That starts on the first broadcast week that includes a calendar day in a month. Confused? That means if June 1 is a Monday, June 1st is happily the first day of both the calendar and broadcast months, with the only exception being whether it starts at June 1st 12 am or 6 am.  How about July? In our example, June 29th follows four weeks later. That broadcast week comprises Monday-Tuesday (June 29-30) and Wednesday-Sunday (July 1-4); so that week is the first week of the broadcast month July and June 29th is the first day of broadcast month July.

Download Tatari's 2020 Broadcast Calendar

The same logic applies to broadcast quarters and years; so the the first week of the broadcast year usually starts before New Years except when January 1 falls on a Monday.

TV Viewership Changes with TV Time

HUT is a TLA (three-letter acronym) that stands for homes using television. 

HUT is 100 times the ratio number of households watching TV to the total number of TV households. Currently, there are about 120 million TV homes comprising somewhat more than 300 million individuals.  So if 60 million TV homes are watching TV then HUT = 50 meaning 50% of TV homes include people watching TV. HUT (and the similar PUT = Persons Using TV) was created by Nielsen but not widely used today. 

Whatever you call it, knowing viewership patterns helps advertisers buy media more efficiently. There are lots of things to look at. In the case of sports, just as there are packed and near-empty stadiums, there are variations in TV viewership for sports games. Popular teams in contention from high-population markets tend to get more viewership. Tatari uses a proprietary model to estimate impressions and uses the results to inform client buys. 

HUT levels and fluctuations in audience size occurs for various reasons outside of sports. For example, people tend to treat their holidays weekends more for entertainment. Hence news viewership tends to suffer during those dates. But during holidays and weekends, more people are on break and home from work and thus HUT levels overall tend to be higher on those dates. Similarly during weekdays and non-holidays, more people are home in the evening and early night, hence HUT levels are high during Prime hours that typically range from 7 pm - 11 pm. HUT levels decline rapidly as people doze off.

Finally, what about the famous Sweeps Weeks (four separate four week periods throughout the year) when Nielsen runs surveys that impact ratings that are used to set rates for advertisers. The advance of technology was supposed to put an end to Sweeps Weeks but they linger on. Networks tend to run especially popular programming during those weeks to raise viewership and artificially boost ratings during non-sweeps week periods. Networks protect show ratings in some cases by using alternative names for programs. Recall above that news viewership falls on weekends and holidays. So for example, a network’s Nightly News has aired as the Nitely News the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.


    Joel Lander

    I’m head of strategy and I have lots of ideas.


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