What Do TV Ratings Mean?

I’m trying to figure out how many people - an actual number of people - watched a given episode of a TV show. I looked up the ratings on Zap2it.com, and it says…

“At 9 p.m., “Flashpoint,” brought CBS down to a 6.2/11, but still handily won the hour.”

So, how many people is 6.2/11? I know it’s a statistical projection and not a headcount, but I’d still like to know what the number is.

Thank you

From Wikipedia:

Yeah, I did read the Wiki thing, but it’s not exactly clear.

In the example given, 9.2% of households, or 10,534,000 households watched the show. But 15% of televisions were tuned to the program.

So what does that mean? How can there be more televisions tuned to the show than households? Are THAT MANY people watching the same show on two different TVs in the same house? Or are there TVs tuned to the show, but nobody’s watching?

And they give a number for households, 114.5 million, but not a number of televisions. So … 15% of what?


You missed a phrase. It says 15% of televisions that were turned on at the time were tuned to that channel.

So let’s assume there are 100 households in the US.
Let’s also assume that on Monday night 50 households are watching TV.
Each household is 1% of the total televisions. So if 10 houses are watching your program, your rating is 10/20.
You get a 10 for the first number because 10/100 or 10% of the population is watching. But you get a 20 for the second number because 10/50 or 20% of those watching television are watching your show.

Ah, yes. Thank you all very much. I did miss that distinction.