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Local TV Glossary

Broadcast coverage area

The geographic area that receives a signal from an originating television station.

Corporate/financial buyer

Buyer that is looking for a financial investment in a company, is more concerned with a return on equity and investment.


The percentage of homes or persons receiving a particular broadcast signal within a specific geographic area.

Cross-ownership rule

A rule that restricts companies from owning properties across media in the same market. It disallows the ownership of a television station and daily newspaper in all but the 20 largest media markets.


A section of a day, used for measuring audience ratings on TV. The cost of buying advertising varies according to the daypart selected.

Designated Market Area (DMA

Represents an exclusive geographic area of counties in which the home market stations are estimated to have the largest quarter-hour audience share (as defined by Nielsen).

Digital Television (DTV)

Generic term that refers to all digital television formats, including high-definition television (HDTV) and standard-definition television (SDTV).

Digital Video Recorder (DVR)

Refers to digital video recorder, also known as personal video recorder. According to the Television Advertising Bureau, a DVR or PVR records broadcasts on a hard disk drive that can then be played back at a later time (this is known as time shifting). A DVR often enables smart programming, in which the device records an entire series or programming defined by keywords, genre, or personnel; and offers pause control over “live” broadcasts.

Early evening newscasts

Local affiliate newscasts between 5 and 7 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific zones and 6 to 8 p.m. in the Mountain and Central zones.

Fox Stations

Not associated with a network news division, Fox stations generally counter-program their network affiliated (ABC, CBS, NBC) stations within their market. This means they air news during network newscasts in the morning (while Good Morning America, CBS Early and Today are on) and evening (World News, Nightly News and Evening News) and for late news during the last hour of primetime (10 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones and 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones).

High Definition Television (HDTV)

Various technical systems providing a finer and wider TV picture and usually twice as many scanning lines as standard TV. According to the Television Advertising Bureau, it provides the highest quality picture and sound simultaneously with a substantial data delivery service.

Independent Station

Stations not affiliated with any network; usually refers to commercial stations only.

Late news

Local affiliate newscasts from 11 to 11:30 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific zones and 10 to 10:30 p.m. in the Central and Mountain zones. These newscasts generally follow prime-time entertainment programming and precede late-night talk shows including The Tonight Show (NBC) and The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS); ABC late newscasts are followed by Nightline.  Fox stations generally air news at 10 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific zones and 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain zones.


A program that immediately precedes another program on the same station or network. (Lead-out is the program that immediately follows another program.)

Local spot

The advertising purchased in a market and aimed only at the audience in that market.


Local newscasts that normally air between noon and 1 p.m. Part of the daytime programming daypart. (See Daypart.)

Mobile DTV

Technology that allows the transmission of over-the-air broadcast programming to cellphones and other hand-held devices.

Morning news

Local newscasts before or following national morning news programming on ABC, CBS and NBC and newscasts on Fox and unaffiliated stations that air any time between 5 and 8 a.m. (See Daypart.)

Early morning news

Local newscasts before national morning news programming on on ABC, CBS and NBC and newscasts on Fox and unaffiliated stations that air on 4:30 to 5 a.m.

Multimedia journalist

A backpack journalist, one-man band, mobile journalist (“mo-jo”). A local news reporter who performs a range of tasks related to the reporting, shooting and editing of news stories for broadcast, Web or mobile content delivery. The availability and ease of use of inexpensive video cameras, laptop editing applications, and cost cutting has spurred an increase in the use multimedia journalists.

National Spot

A form of broadcast advertising in which national advertisers, through their agency or buying service, select their target markets and stations to fit their marketing needs. The station usually has a contract with a rep firm to represent it to ad agencies.

Network Affiliated Station

Local television stations affiliated with one of the four major national broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

Nielsen Media Research

A firm involved in local and national measurement of the TV audience; also involved in other research activities.

Persons Using Television (PUT)

According to the Television Advertising Bureau, a PUT is a measurement of the total number of people in the target audience who are watching television for five minutes or longer during an average quarter-hour. PUT is generally expressed as a percent.


A percentage measure of total households or population owning TVs who are tuned to a particular program or station at a specific time (e.g., a six rating for women 18-49 means 6 percent of all women 18-49 in the defined geographic area were viewing that station or program), according to the Television Advertising Bureau.

Rating Point

A value equal to one percent of a population or universe, such as the population of a Designated Market Area.

Retransmission consent

An option granted to television stations as part of the law that granted such stations the option to elect must-carry rights. Under retransmission consent, a full-power U.S. television station may elect to negotiate with a cable system operator for carriage of its broadcast programming. A station may propose that the cable operator pay cash to carry the station or ask for any other form of consideration. The cable operator may refuse the broadcaster’s proposal and not carry the station or offer a counter-proposal. Broadcast stations have similar rights with respect to satellite television providers like DirecTV and Dish Network.

Reverse compensation

The practice of a commercial television station paying a television network in exchange for being permitted to affiliate with that network. The word “reverse” refers to the historical practice of networks paying stations to compensate them for the airtime networks use to run network advertisements during their programming.


The Television Advertising Bureau defines share as the percent of households (household share) or persons (P2+ share) using television who are tuned to a specific program, network or station at a specific time.

Strategic buyer

Usually from a similar industry and typically has a specific reason for wanting to buy a particular company. The strategic buyer will frequently be willing to pay a premium price in order to obtain a company possessing that quality.

Spot TV

The advertising time purchased from individual stations. There are two major types local and national. Local spots are purchased in one market and aimed only at the audience in that particular market. National spots are bought by national advertisers in several markets.


Ratings surveys in which local markets are simultaneously measured by a rating service. Nielsen Media Research measures television audiences to help the industry determine advertising rates for television stations. Sweeps months are generally February, May, July and November. In anticipation of the federally mandated switch to digital television in 2009, Nielsen elected to change the winter sweep month from February to March.

Television Household

An estimate of the number of households that have one or more television sets.


A designated time on a television schedule for a particular program or type of programming.


Collectively, the viewers of a television program.


Local TV Audience Measurements

To gauge audience, the television industry relies on two metrics — share and ratings.
Share indicates the percentage of the television sets in use that are tuned to a program at a given time. If, for example, 500 television sets are turned on in Orlando, Fla., and 250 are tuned to the 7 p.m. news hour on WKCF-TV, then that station gets a 50 share for that time slot.

Ratings, on the other hand, step back a level and indicate the percentage of households tuned to a program out of all households with television sets — not just those in use but also those that are turned off. In the same example, if Orlando had 1,000 television sets in total, with 250 tuned to WKCF-TV for the 7 p.m. news, then it would get a rating of 25.

In previous reports, PEJ gathered the May sweeps audience data for network-affiliated stations using the Nielsen audience estimates that were included in the database from BIA Financial Network, a media research and investment firm. We then calculated averages for the early evening and late night newscasts, combining them into a national average. The data, going back to 1997, allowed us make comparisons year to year. With the 2007 report, we expanded our data sample to get a different perspective. We now look at local news market audience by examining ratings and share during the four sweeps months — February, May, July, and November – which are the months advertisers use to determine what to buy.

Audience Measurements: Ratings and Share

The key metrics for audience in television are ratings and share:

PEJ examines three types of variables for local TV: ratings, share and viewership. Unlike in other sectors, PEJ only analyzes P2+ data for local TV. The P2+ variables describe total individual viewers 2 years of age or older, as opposed to household (HH or HHLD) data, which describes U.S. television households, which is a measure constructed by Nielsen that estimates the number of households that have one or more television sets, either tuned to a particular program.

Sweeps in 2009

Typically, Nielsen measures audience in all media markets in the United States in February, May, July and November.

In 2009, the transition to digital television was scheduled for February 17 (although ultimately it did not take place until June 12). Nielsen decided to carry out March measurements, which has never conducted before and there are no plans to consuct in the future. This means there is no way to compare that March measurement to any other year. Since there is no equivalent basis of comparison from February 2009 to February 2010, PEJ decided not to analyze those data across time. See 2010 report for more