When Viewers Don't Count

by - July 13, 2016

Twenty-two. That's the number of counties in which my station's digital signal is available. Of those 22 counties, only seven are in our DMA or, in other words, count. Seven of 22. So what about the people living in the other 15?

This is a conversation that I've been having more frequently these days. The people living in those 15 non-DMA counties mean nothing when it comes to ratings. None of them get the Nielsen book in the mail. In those counties, the cable companies and satellite providers are not required to offer my station. A few of them do anyway, and in the Florida counties that lost us within the past three years, our loyal viewers rushed out to buy digital antennas so they wouldn't lose the station they'd come to depend on for their daily news, sports and weather.

But they don't count.

And therein lies the dilemma. When we are choosing what stories to cover or what to drop when we're in a time crunch, stories from those counties that don't count toward ratings are the first to get crossed off the list. And I totally get it. Ratings are the key to selling advertising, so those are the viewers that we cater to - the ones that count.

But for me, ethically, all viewers count. And in some of those non-DMA counties in Georgia, if we don't cover them, no one will. That's because they're in no-man's land, claimed by no television station and generally ignored unless something awful happens.

Do the people living in those counties deserve not to be covered simply because they're ignored by the ratings police? Shouldn't ratings include everyone who can and/or does watch? And since when is advertising more important than news?

There are no simple answers, but it's my hope as a producer that as this business moves more and more online that we'll stop seeing those DMA boundary lines and focus more on the people we're serving. Until that day, though, just know that this producer is fighting for your coverage, whether you count or not.

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  1. Hi, Ashton!

    This is another great piece! It surely is unfair for stations to provide quality news coverage to viewers in the designated market area and spotty, sporadic coverage or no coverage at all to viewers in fringe counties. I applaud you for seeing the big picture and a potential solution to the problem and for thinking about your loyal viewers in non-DMA areas.