Listeners & viewers
Pubcasting audiences: not such small potatoes
By design, public radio and TV have smaller audiences than their commercial counterparts. The audience for an evening PBS program during the average quarter-hour a fifth of NBC's, for instance. One of the purposes of public broadcasting is to air programs that won't get a mass audience but are important to the people who do tune in.
But in the overall picture of American media, public broadcasting's audiences are quite sizeable. Its weekly audiences compare with those of major national magazines, cable TV networks, arthouse film hits, the hottest records and the biggest bestselling books.
This is especially true when you look at cumulative audiences ("cumes") that mount up over the course of a week: the sum of all the various smaller audiences served.
Here's a comparison of audience sizes from a sampling of well-known media products.
Millions Medium Product Data details 69.6 TV NBC primetime weekly cume Nielsen, spring 1996 60 MOVIE Independence Day after 23 weeks* 28.3 TV PBS primetime weekly cume Nielsen, spring 1996 19.8 MOVIE Hunchback of Notre Dame after 24 weeks* 19.7 RADIO Public radio total weekly cume Arbitron, spring 1996 15.4 TV Discovery Channel prime. wkly. cume Nielsen, spring 1996 15.1 MAG Reader's Digest circulation Audit Bureau of Circulation, first half, 1996 13.9 TV HBO primetime weekly cume Nielsen, spring 1996 13 TV A&E Network primetime weekly cume Nielsen, spring 1996 11.2 TV Barney & Friends cume Nielsen, week of June 17 11 REC Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette Soundscan, after 76 weeks 9.7 TV Nova: "Warriors of Amazon" cume Nielsen, week of April 9 9.2 MAG National Geographic circulation Audit Bureau of Circulation, first half, 1996 7.7 TV NewsHour with Jim Lehrer cume Nielsen, week of June 17 7.6 RADIO Morning Edition weekly cume Arbitron, spring 1996 5.7 TV This Old House weekly cume Nielsen, week of June 17 5 REC Falling Into You, Celine Dion Soundscan, Billboard, after 36 weeks 4.9 MOVIE That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks after 9 weeks* 4.3 RADIO ABC Prime radio net weekly cume Arbitron, spring 1995 4.3 REC East 1999 Eternal, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Soundscan, after 70 weeks 4.1 MAG Time magazine circulation Audit Bureau of Circulation, first half, 1996 4 TV Disney Channel primetime weekly cume Nielsen, spring 1996 3.4 VIDEO Beauty and the Beast cassette sales Soundscan, after 4 years 3 MOVIE Trainspotting ticket sales after 20 weeks* 2.3 BOOK The Rainmaker, John Grisham 1995 top seller, fiction, Publishers Weekly 2.3 RADIO Car Talk weekly cume Arbitron, spring 1996 2.2 TV Wall Street Week weekly cume Nielsen, week of June 17 2.2 TV Great Performances cume Nielsen, week of April l3 "La Cenerentola" 2.1 BOOK Men Are from Mars... 1995 top seller, nonfiction, Publishers Weekly 0.2 STAGE Broadway, total weekly attendance Variety, week of Nov. 25
*Movie ticket sales estimated from Variety grosses at $5 per ticket. Average ticket price in 1995: $4.35.
Web page created April 5, 1997
Copyright 1997 by Current Publishing Committee