Nerd Exclusive: Nielsen Data (1964-1974)

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! Following one of my favorite Wildcard posts ever — our July 2017 piece on My World And Welcome To It — I’ve been inspired to seek out as much information as I can find regarding national final Nielsen rankings beyond the annual Top 30 (which can easily be found online). Thanks to Variety‘s archives, along with data collected from period newspapers and old copies of both Television and Broadcasting Magazine, I’ve been able to locate some of what I, and many of you, have been seeking. However, there are still gaps…

First, I want to note that I’m not a ratings nerd by nature. I’m only interested in entertaining programming. However, as a quasi-historian, I’m also fascinated by the decisions that former network heads made based on the data they were receiving from Nielsen (and Arbitron and Trendex, etc.), specifically during the time of the somewhat erroneously labeled “Rural Purge,” when television seemingly went through a major cultural upheaval. Sadly though, the years for which we’re most interested in securing additional data — 1969-’70 and 1970-’71 — are the two with the most significant absences in published information (see more below).

Additionally, there are still questions that I’ve been unable to answer from other years, too… like where exactly did He & She fall at the end of ’67-’68? Top 50? And where was That Girl during that season? How low was it? I don’t have all those answers today, but I hope to find them eventually… Meanwhile, with the data that we do have, you’ll also note a few discrepancies, for as you’ll see, the published “Top 30” lists generally account for the period of October to April (the exception in this post is the ’73-’74 Top 30, which includes September as well), while Variety’s data, in particular, often includes the premiere month of September. So, in a lot of cases, the material I’m sharing here is only able to give you an idea of how a show did and where it placed in relation to its competition at season’s end.

I’ve chosen to cover the decade from 1964-’74, because it not only contains the years of the “Rural Purge,” but also because I think it’s, in total, the period for which we television data-seekers have the most questions. So here’s what I have, by season…

 

1964-65

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

In the August 1967 issue of Television, readers were treated to a list of the season’s offerings that ranked between #30 and #70. They are listed in relation to their average rating (and the same #30 title as the above makes these two lists seem congruous), although you’ll see the average share printed below, instead of the rating.

 

1965-66

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

In the August 1967 issue of Television, readers were treated to a list of the season’s offerings that ranked between #30 and #70. They are listed in relation to their average rating (and the same #30 title as the above makes these two lists seem congruous), although you’ll see the average share printed below, instead of the rating. OF NOTE: Both The Munsters and The Addams Family, without changing time slots, dropped from being in the Top 30 in their debut seasons to outside the Top 60. No wonder they were cancelled.

 

1966-67

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

In the August 1967 issue of Television, readers were treated to a list of the season’s offerings that ranked between #30 and #70. They are listed in relation to their average rating (and once more, these two lists seem congruous), although you’ll see the average share printed below instead of the rating. OF NOTE: Gunsmoke made the Top 40; Gilligan’s Island barely made the Top 50. Also, none of the game shows cracked the Top 70. Their cancellations should therefore have been unsurprising. (And this “purge” wasn’t due to demo problems — obviously.)

 

1967-68

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

I don’t have a Top 70 for this season, but I was able to find the Top 40, as printed by Variety in May ’68. The list looks like it covers the same dates as the one above. OF NOTE:  The sitcoms in between 31 and 40 included The Flying Nun, Petticoat Junction, Get Smart, The Mothers-In-Law, and Hogan’s Heroes — in that order — and all of them were renewed.

Although I don’t have a complete listing of the season’s programs, and am still unsure of where He & She officially fell, Variety printed the complete results from a two-week Nielsen period lasting from late September to early October. OF NOTE: He & She came in at #35. (Other data from the first two months of the year has He & She at various spots within the Top 40. Based on what I’ve seen, I think it ended somewhere in between 40 and 50.)

 

1968-69

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

In September 1969, Variety published a list of the prior season’s Top 51. You’ll see that the order is slightly different than the one above — because it purports to factor in “Premiere 1968,” while the above starts in October. The Top 30 is almost the same (despite different numbers), but the biggest change is that The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour is #31 below, and #15 above. (It premiered in January ’69.) Also, OF NOTE: The Good Guys, Petticoat Junction, Hogan’s Heroes, and The Mothers-In-Law made this list’s Top 40. All but the latter were renewed.

 

1969-70

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

As mentioned above, I sadly have no formal listing beyond the Top 30 for the 1969-’70 season. The only thing of note that I found in Variety was published in September 1970, and it cited — by demographics — the ratings breakdown for all RETURNING programs. That is, there’s information here for The Governor And J.J., but not Petticoat Junction. Also, the listing is alphabetical, which means that there’s no ranking.

 

1970-71

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

Variety didn’t have anything about the season’s final ratings, and instead published this interesting blurb in May. I have questions about where All In The Family ended up (some say #34), and where this was in relation to both The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. I’ve also wanted to know where Arnie fell, for it’s the show Wood chose over Family Affair (which likely was just outside the Top 30).

 

1971-72

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

Variety offered a complete ranking of the season’s shows in May ’72. The numbers are different than the above, because of the date parameters, and while all the series in the Top 30 are the same, a few are in a different order. OF NOTE: The Brady Bunch and The Odd Couple made the Top 40. Arnie, The Jimmy Stewart Show, and My Three Sons all made the Top 50. But they were cancelled. Also, see Bewitched? It’s way down there at #72.

 

1972-73

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of October to April.

Variety offered a complete ranking of the season’s shows in May ’73. Once again, the numbers are different than the above, because of the date parameters, and the order among the Top 30 is slightly different. OF NOTE: The Odd Couple and The Doris Day Show both made the Top 40. The New Dick Van Dyke Show hit #55 (having fallen from #18 in the year before), but was renewed. Also, The Paul Lynde Show tied MASH at #46 here, but was cancelled.

 

1973-74

First, the Top 30 as printed by The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1946-Present), comprising the period of September to April.

Variety offered a complete ranking of the season’s shows in May ’74.  The two lists’ numbers are, again, slightly different — due to date parameters. Marcus Welby, Mannix, and Apple’s Way all made the Top 30 according to the below list, but were edged out in the formal ranking above. OF NOTE: The New Dick Van Dyke Show, in its last season, was hovering around #40. The Odd Couple and The Girl With Something Extra both made the Top 50. Lotsa Luck and The Brady Bunch (both cancelled) made the Top 60. And the well-reviewed Calucci’s Department was last.

 

 

Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in Tuesday for more Frasier!

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12 thoughts on “Nerd Exclusive: Nielsen Data (1964-1974)

  1. Very interesting. It is weird that some shows did so well one year and the next year fell hard. Marcus Welby comes to mind. Thanks for your hard work.

    • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’ve no plans for any similar posts in the near future, but stay tuned because you never know what might come up…

  2. Thanks for posting this. I’m surprised to see THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW did as well as it did, even into Season 2. I’d love to have a way to know what the highest-rated episode of every series, including the clunkers, is, but I know that would take a huge amount of time, expense & effort for whoever did it. I do remember the READER’S DIGEST yearly almanac having a list of the final rankings of every network show, and I was surprised to see that KOJAK eventually fell to #78 in its last year on CBS, after being renewed at #45 the previous season.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      The information you’re seeking would have to come directly from Nielsen. To my knowledge, no publication, not even Variety, was publishing weekly data at the time beyond more generalized “CBS won these days, NBC won these days, etc.”

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