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Local TV Glossary


A TV station, not owned by a network, that grants a network use of specific time periods for network programs and advertising, for compensation. Remainder of broadcast day is programmed locally.

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.

Cost-Per-Thousand (CPM)

The cost of reaching 1,000 homes or individuals with a specific advertising message. According to the Television Advertising Bureau, CPM is a standard advertising measure to compare the relative cost efficiency of different programs, stations or media.


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. These segments generally reflect a television station’s programming patterns. Comparison of audience estimates between dayparts may indicate differences in size and composition of available audience. 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.


An instance where two stations in the same designated market area are owned by the same party. Though once forbidden by the FCC, the rules surrounding duopolies have been relaxed in recent years, according to the Television Advertising Bureau.

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.

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 ABC, CBS and NBC and newscasts on Fox and unaffiliated stations that air on 4:30 to 5 a.m.


Broadcasting several programs at once via DTV on a single channel. According to the Television Advertising Bureau, a viewer might be able to receive two programs at the same time, and choose the program preferred.

Multimedia journalist

(A.K.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

The advertising time bought by national advertisers in several markets.

Network-affiliated station

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

Owned and Operated (O&O) station

A television station that is owned by the network with which it is associated.

Personal People Meter (PPM)

Hardware currently being tested by Arbitron. The PPM is a pager-sized device that is worn by consumers throughout the day to automatically detect inaudible codes that radio and television broadcasters and cable networks embed in the audio portion of their programming, according to the Television Advertising Bureau,

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.

Retransmission fees

Includes cash or other compensation that cable, satellite and telco TV providers pay to broadcast TV stations and, indirectly, to the networks — such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and CW — for the right to carry broadcast TV station programming in their local markets.

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.

Time Slot

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

Total Audience

According to the Television Advertising Bureau, total audience is the percent of households tuning to all or to any portion of a program for at least 6 minutes.


Collectively, the viewers of a television program.

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.


A connecting system which allows simultaneous telecasting of a single origination by a number of stations.

Nielsen Media Research (NMR)

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


Local TV Audience Measurements

Audience Measurements: Ratings and Share

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

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.

Major Change in Audience Measurement in 2010 

In an effort to measure the audience of people who watch programming both when it airs and later through digital video recorder (DVR) playback, Nielsen Media Research announced it would eliminate on April 1, 2010, ratings based only on who is watching a broadcast as it is aired.

Instead, the company said it would issue what has been termed live-plus-same-day program ratings. The new type of rating will combine live viewing with viewing via DVR playback.

A similar measurement for network television pushes ratings up by about 13%. The effect on local news is expected to be much smaller. Wally Dean, the broadcast/online director at the Committee of Concerned Journalists and a consultant to this report, told Pew Research Center that, almost exclusively, local news is watched live.

Still, the elimination of the live-only measurements has raised concerns among some advertising agencies that buy commercial spots and the advertisers they represent. One agency opposing the change is GroupM North America, a subsidiary of the London-based WPP Group that, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising, controls one third of all local television ad spending. 

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). Both Nielsen and local stations agreed the analog shut-off would disrupt February audience measures too much, and therefore skew results.8 For stations, the concern was that ratings would drop, at least temporarily, when unprepared viewers discovered that their televisions no longer worked. In general, stations favored skipping February sweeps measurements altogether, but Nielsen decided to move the sweeps to March, citing contractual obligations.

Then Congress, at the urging of the Obama administration, delayed the digital transition to June 12. It was too late to conduct a February sweeps, so Nielsen carried out its March measurements.

Nielsen had not conducted measurements in March previously, nor does the company plan to in the future. This means there is no way to compare that March measurement to any other year.

Viewership patterns from February to March tend to differ significantly. February is darker and colder with more people indoors watching television. By contrast, warmer temperatures and daylight savings (which started March 8, 2009) can push television viewing down in March.

Indeed, the 2009 March measures tended to be much lower than those measured in February of 2008, especially for evening and morning news.