Behind The Scenes

Behind ESPN’s Ratings 101 video

Editor’s note: The video above, humorously explaining how television’s Nielsen ratings work, has earned raves on the web. The video is a product of ESPN’s Audience Research department. Here’s the story behind it.

Most people have heard of TV ratings, but very few actually understand what they are and how they work.

That’s where we come in: We’re the Audience Research team at ESPN.

In addition to tracking, reporting, analyzing, and forecasting ratings for all of our U.S. TV networks, we’re also charged with educating the company about Nielsen’s TV ratings process.

That’s often easier said than done,since the ratings system is a complex mix of samples, meters, audio codes, and button pushers.

Our team is always looking for new and fun ways to explain the finer points of this system to our ESPN colleagues (we once went as far as giving an entire presentation using nothing but handmade props), and that’s how the idea for this video was born.

We found a partner in Jess3, a creative agency that specializes in data visualization, and they helped us bring our idea to life.

Our team came up with the retro SportsCenter concept and Jess3 had the genius idea to use puppets.

What we ended up with was a completely unique take on the TV ratings system, with a SportsCenter meets School House Rock meets Sesame Street vibe.

For more on the creative process, click Jess3’s picture blog.

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