Television networks are intentionally misspelling the names of their news shows in a new trend to artificially boost their ratings.
Mediaite first noticed in June that an episode of NBC News' "Nightly News" set to air the Friday before Memorial Day (typically a slow news day) was retitled "Nitely News." As a result, Nielsen's automated system treated the Friday show as if it were another show entirely.
The gambit worked; when the week's average ratings were released, "Nightly News" beat ABC's "World News Tonight" due to the latter being weighed down by the low-rated Friday broadcast.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the practice has become even more frequent. NBC has misspelled its shows' names 14 times this season, but ABC News has aired seven episodes of "Wrld New Tonite" and CBS has aired twelve episodes of "Evening Nws."
Nielsen does have a general rule allowing retitling. However, it is only supposed to be used in particular circumstances, such as on Christmas or when a sporting event preempts a scheduled broadcast.
Nielsen is reportedly miffed by the workaround, and is planning on holding a meeting with TV industry representatives next week to address the problem.
"If we find a network working in contrast to this agreed-upon policy, we address the issue in a direct fashion as a way to maintain fairness and balance for all of our clients and the industry as a whole," Nielson told the Journal.
This is hardly the first time network news have been caught gaming the system. NBC News told local affiliates in 2015 to rerun "Nightly News" after 2 a.m., and then added the late night viewers to the show's viewership total.