Audience rating

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The audience rating of a radio or television program is the percentage of receiving households or people - depending on the measurement method - who hear or see the program at a given point in time, measured against the total number of all receiving households or people. Receiving households are all households that have a television, regardless of whether it is switched on or not. Colloquially and in public perception, the audience rating is often understood to mean the absolute number of viewers.

There are different methods for both the survey and the reporting of audience ratings, depending on the country and receiving medium. For example, the audience rating can be based on an extrapolation or (e.g. in the case of Internet or pay-per-view offers) on complete data from the population . The report can show the average number of viewers (common in Germany for TV ratings) or the number of people who have attended at least part of the program (common in Germany for radio coverage).

Audience ratings have a particular influence on the prices for advertising in radio and television programs, but are also to be understood as an indirect consequence of the strategies of the advertising industry .



Telescopy is a technique used to determine audience ratings for television. In the population of a country, a selection of households is made whose composition approximates the structure of the total population. This selected group is the panel group , it usually comprises between 2000 and 6000 people.

The panel group is given technical equipment to record television viewing habits. If a member of the household is watching TV, they have to press a button on the specially equipped remote control. The measuring device records the channels viewed every second. If another household member joins them, they too have to press their button on the measuring device or the remote control; the broadcaster has one more viewer from this point on.

Each measuring device sends the collected data daily between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. (Germany), between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. (Austria) or between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. (Switzerland) via modem to the data center, which evaluates the data. Audience ratings for one day's programs are available to TV stations the next morning from around 8:30 a.m.

This is not the case everywhere: In Brazil, for example, the audience ratings are measured in real time , so it can happen that certain parts of the program are extended or shortened in live broadcasts when the ratings are particularly rising or falling.

Even with internet-enabled smart TVs , audience ratings can be measured in real time if they are connected to the internet.


Audience ratings can also be determined using the survey method. This is customary in Germany, for example, when measuring the range of radio broadcasts, which takes place twice a year in the so-called " MA Radio ".

Data evaluation

When evaluating the data, the extrapolated absolute audience figures are of secondary importance for broadcasters and advertisers. How many people watch television at a certain time depends on many factors: weather , time of day , leisure activities, etc. Anyone who abstains from television for such a reason is no longer a potential audience for all broadcasters. Their advertising prices take the fluctuations into account, so a commercial at prime time at 8:15 p.m. is significantly more expensive than one in the night program .

It is therefore more interesting how many of those who are watching television watch a certain program. This market share , again expressed as a percentage, measures how attractive a program was compared to the concurrently running competing programs (for example , 25% of all who watched television at one point in time saw a certain program ). The quota data is available to the broadcasters to the second, i.e. In other words, the number of viewers and the market share a program had for every second of the day.

Since many products and programs are aimed primarily at certain age groups , an attempt is made to break down the measured values ​​according to age groups, the so-called target groups .

Internet usage

Due to the growing use of the Internet, more and more viewers are watching programs in the television station's media library ( video-on-demand ) or downloading the programs as podcasts . These uses have not yet been recorded by the quota boxes.

In Switzerland, this problem was to be solved from 2013 by a measuring device that makes an acoustic comparison between the sound played by the panel members and the sound made available by the television stations. In addition to the Internet viewers, this also measures viewers who record programs with a video recorder or hard disk recorder and watch them with a time delay. However, due to the amount of material, this should be limited to the first 7 days after the first broadcast.



The first television meter, called Tammeter , was developed by the Attwood Group and AC Nielsen Company in the UK. ARD and ZDF founded a joint subsidiary with “Infratam” based in Wetzlar and from 1963 to 1974 carried out the first continuous quota measurements. The Tammeter measured to the minute, but only delivered the results (device switch-on, channel, time) four weeks later and only for the entire television household.

In January 1975 the television stations in the Federal Republic of Germany carried out a telescopic procedure using a special device. The "Teleskomat" (40 cm wide, 10 cm high) connected to the television set was used in 1,200 representative households. The device had six program and seven person buttons, a timer and an electronic recording device that saved all the data entered by the television viewers and sent them to a central computer in Bad Godesberg at night by telephone .

Since 1985 the GfK Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung has been collecting the "audience figures", or more precisely the "television usage data". This was initially done on behalf of ARD and ZDF, since 1988 the client has been the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Fernsehforschung (AGF), an amalgamation of the broadcasting families of ARD, ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and ZDF. Telecontrol Score , also known as the GfK meter , has been the measuring device in use since 2009 .

The measurement is carried out in a representative panel (see panel data ), which is a sample of all German and non-EU television households in Germany. It is one of the largest panels of its kind in Europe. Every day, GfK reports to the second from 5,000 households with a total of around 10,500 people on the previous day's television viewing.

The households for surveying the audience rating are selected according to certain procedures. Households cannot apply themselves. If a selected household is ready to participate in television research, the measuring devices are installed on all available television sets in the household, if possible. Individuals in a household log in and out at the push of a button to identify themselves as viewers. The GfK meters then transmit the measured data to the GfK data center in Nuremberg overnight. With the help of projections, the sample of television usage collected in the panel is transferred to the entire population. The “audience ratings” of the previous day are available to authorized users for their evaluations 365 days a year at the latest from 8:30 am. Large television providers such as ProSieben, RTL or ARD can access individual households and measure exact audience numbers. This is often used at live events and in the evening program to optimize program offers.

The television usage data from AGF and GfK are regarded as the "currency" in the German television market. Since the beginning of 2016, the AGF has been publishing TOP3 programs from selected channels and market shares by day. Since February 2016 there have also been monthly market shares by channel.


The electronic measurement of audience ratings has been carried out in Austria since 1991 by the TELETEST , which is carried out by the market research institute GfK Austria. Before that, there was the Continuous Infratest (KIT) from 1981 to 1990, in which the ratings were recorded using a television diary. Since the beginning of 2007, TELETEST has been commissioned by the Teletest Working Group . Members of the AGTT are ORF / ORF-Enterprise , SevenOne Media Austria (P7S1P4) / ATV , IP Austria, ServusTV and Goldbach Media .

Measuring devices from GfK Telecontrol, which work with the measurement techniques substitution, audio matching and SIP (Screen Face Processing), are in 1,628 Austrian test households and register every television channel used to the second. Time-shifted use via (digital) video recorder is included. The test viewers log in with a special remote control. The test households represent a total of 3,694,000 TV households. Compared to other measurement systems in Europe, the number of panels based on the number of inhabitants is very large. In Austria, a panel household only represents around 2,256 TV households. The reason given is that it should be possible to provide valid data for very small areas (Vorarlberg, Burgenland). The panel comprises a total of 3556 participants. 3,239 people aged 12 and over represent the 7,302,000 Austrians in households with a TV set. 317 children (3 to 11 years) are representative of the 717,000 children. The participants are selected at random. Approximately 18% of the participants leave the panel every year. Only a few data from the panel study are published free of charge. On the AGTT page there are TOP3 programs produced daily by selected channels and market shares by months and years. The AGTT members ORF, P7S1P4 / ATV and IP also publish quota data on their websites and telext offers.


In Switzerland, the Federal Department for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication commissions the independent Mediapulse Foundation to collect national television ratings. The foundation itself is not operational, but delegates this task to Mediapulse AG . This operates the Swiss television panel, which comprises at least 1,870 households (German Switzerland: 1000 households, French Switzerland: 600 households, Italian Switzerland: 270 households). In 2017, the 3.4 million television households in Switzerland will be shown. A panel household therefore represents an average of around 1,818 Swiss households, and in Italian-speaking Switzerland only around 585 television households. In order to achieve the same measurement accuracy in the small regions, a disproportionately large number of panel households are required compared to the large ones. The panel density is probably the highest in Europe in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

From 1985 to 2012, measurements in the panel households were carried out using measuring devices from GfK Switzerland . The measurement technology manufacturer was Telecontrol from Kriegstetten , which had been producing television measuring devices since 1983 and was completely taken over by GfK in 2001. Each person in the panel households logged in and out of watching TV at the push of a button; the selected station was automatically recognized by the sender's signature.

On January 1, 2013, Mediapulse built a new TV panel. This is equipped with the 5000 Series PeopleMeter from Kantar Media . In addition to live TV consumption, time-shifted use and TV consumption via the Internet (on a computer or laptop) are also recorded. The registration of the audience continues to be carried out via remote control. However, the publication of the results of the new panel was delayed considerably: After Mediapulse initially asserted technical problems, individual TV stations later questioned the correctness of the results in court. Following an agreement between Mediapulse and Plaintiff 3 Plus, the data were released for publication on July 31.

Once a year Mediapulse AG publishes freely accessible data on the Swiss TV market in the form of an annual report and twice a year semester data on the largest Swiss TV channels.

In Switzerland, radio consumption is measured in the Mediapulse radio panel with the so-called Mediawatch .

Great Britain

The electronic measurement of TV audience ratings is commissioned in the United Kingdom by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), which is jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 , Channel 5 , Sky and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) . BARB service providers include a. RSMB, Ipsos MORI and Kantar Media .

The BARB currently has around 5,100 test households in which over 12,000 participating people live. With a total TV population of 59.028 million in the UK, each test viewer represents over 5,000 people in the extrapolation. The measuring box records exactly the programs that are seen. A television panelist logs in and out with a button on a special remote control. The data is collected during the night and can be evaluated by television stations and the advertising industry from around 9:30 a.m. on the following day. Time-shift data (video recordings) are available for up to 28 days of re-use.

The BARB publishes, among other things, weekly TOP10 hit lists, a weekly overview by channels or the use of program fields.

United States

In the USA , the audience value is also measured in terms of the total number, but not only - as in Germany - the "live viewers" are measured, but also those who viewed recorded material late within a week. This is how the so-called rating / share is created one week after the TV first broadcast .

Rating / Share

Rating / Share are two different measuring units that are used in the USA to assess audience response:

  • Rating: The percentage, which is given under Rating, indicates how many viewers from all households, which due to technical conditions have the possibility to follow a certain program, have watched. According to Nielsen Media Research , in September 2006 this was a total of 110.2 million households. The target group in the USA is 18 to 49 year olds.
  • Share: The percentage that is given under Share indicates how many people from the total number of all devices switched on at the time of the measurement viewed a specific program.

Quota records


The previous record for viewership in Germany was achieved on July 13, 2014 by ARD at the soccer World Cup final between Germany and Argentina: an average of 34.65 million people watched the game on their own television over the entire broadcast time, which is a market share in the Z3 + target group of 86.3%. The large number of spectators at public viewing as well as in restaurants and pubs were not counted. The previous record was set by the soccer World Cup semi-finals on July 8, 2014, Brazil against Germany with 32.57 million people.

In January 1962, the Durbridge thriller Das Halstuch achieved ratings of up to 89% on the six broadcast evenings. There were far fewer televisions than there are now, but those who didn't have a device went to friends or pubs. Public life practically came to a standstill. Just one year later, in January 1963, Francis Durbridge's next six- parter , Tim Frazer, achieved rates between 80 and 93% (the highest on January 25, 1963 with Part 6). On March 25, 1962, the live performance of Aunt Jutta from Calcutta from the Millowitsch Theater had an audience rating of 88%.

The episode “The Question of Guilt” from the television series Die Schwarzwaldklinik on November 17, 1985 holds the record for a fictional program with 27.97 million viewers to this day.

Quota records of the year
J Sd program date Beginning Duration Sehb. % Sehb. M. MA
2008 ZDF European Football Championship 2008 : Germany - Turkey June 25th 08 20:48 1:35:00 40.3% 29.46 million   81.5%
2009 ZDF ZDF SPORTextra: Soccer World Cup 2010 / Qualification : Russia - Germany Oct 10, 09 17:04 1:33:22 17.3% 12.46 million   55.6%
2010 ARD Soccer World Cup 2010 live: Germany - Spain 0July 7th 10th 20:28 1:39:16 43.1% 31.10 million   83.0%
2011 ZDF Soccer World Cup 2011 live: Germany - Japan 0July 9th 11th 8:45 pm 2:08:43 23.6% 17.01 million   59.2%
2012 ARD European Football Championship 2012 : Germany - Italy June 28, 12 20:46 1:38:32 38.9% 27.99 million   76.6%
2013 ZDF ZDF SPORTextra: UEFA Champions League 2012/13 : Borussia Dortmund - FC Bayern Munich May 25th 13th 20:46 1:33:52 30.1% 21.61 million   61.7%
2014 ARD Football World Cup 2014 live: Germany - Argentina July 13th 14th 20:59 2:14:28 47.9% 34.57 million   86.2%
2015 RTL European Football Championship 2016 / Qualification : Germany - Georgia (2nd half) Oct 11, 15th 21:47 0:48:21 19.1% 13.84 million   43.1%
2016 ZDF European Football Championship 2016 live: Germany - France 0July 7th 16 21:01 1:36:08 39.8% 29.85 million   80.3%
2017 ZDF ZDF Sportextra: Confederations Cup : Chile - Germany 0July 2nd 17 20:01 1:35:26 19.8% 14.86 million   42.7%
2018 ARD Football World Cup 2018 : Germany - Sweden 23 June 18 20:00 1:42:05 36.4% 27.53 million   76.3%

Data: AGF in cooperation with GfK; TV Scope 6.1, total viewers, all channels, Monday – Sunday, 3:00 am – 3:00 am, minimum program length 10 minutes
J: year; Sd: transmitter; Duration in h; Visual,% and M: visual participation (average range) in percent and millions; MA: market share


In the period before 1991, the TV ratings in Austria were recorded by means of survey waves or, from 1980, with a TV diary method, the Continuous Infratest (KIT). These methodological differences make a comparison with the current measured data of the TELETEST only possible to a limited extent. The most popular program on Infratest ran on December 27, 1984. It was an episode of I marry a family with Peter Weck with 4 million viewers. The second strongest show was Wetten, dass ..? , still with Frank Elstner on April 12, 1986 with 3.9 million. The third best show was Die Dornenvögel on November 29, 1983 with 3.8 million. The highest daily TV reach ever registered in Austria at 87% (adults) was achieved on Epiphany in 1985. It was an ideal TV Sunday with no more than minus ten degrees and a wide range of entertainment and sports (slalom and Four Hills Tournament). In the TELETEST , the electronic measurement since 1991, the time in picture 1 from November 24, 2002 on the day of the National Council election in 2002 is the broadest broadcast with an average reach of 2.6 million. In second place is the Peter Alexander Show on FS1 (ORF1) on December 21, 1991 with 2.585 million.

Record ratings according to years of ORF and private broadcasters (or international broadcasters)
Area J Sd program date Beginning Duration DRW% DRW T MA
ORF 2015 ORF one Eurovision Song Contest 2015 : Final - Voting 23 May 15 23:48 23.1% 1,678 thousand    72%
2015 ORF one SKI-WM : Combination of women, slalom 0Feb 9, 15 22:14 22.6% 1,639 thousand    59%
2015 ORF one State today (state election Vienna) Oct 11, 15th 19:03 21.1% 1,604 thousand    59%
ORF 2016 ORF one European Football Championship : Portugal - Austria, 2nd half June 18th 16 21:59 0:50 24.9% 1,816 thousand    62%
2016 ORF one European Football Championship: Austria - Hungary, 2nd half June 14th 16 19:01 0:52 23.6% 1,724 thousand    60%
2016 ORF one European Football Championship: Iceland - Austria, 2nd half June 22nd 16 19:00 0:49 23.0% 1,678 thousand    66%
ORF 2017 ORF 2 State today ( National Council election 2017 ) Oct. 15, 17 19:03 26.5% 1,983 Th.    62%
2017 ORF 2 Election 17: Round of top candidates Oct. 15, 17 19:47 25.5% 1,904 thousand    53%
2017 ORF 2 Time in picture 1 (election day) Oct. 15, 17 7:30 p.m. 25.2% 1,883 Th.    55%
Private 2017 Pulse 4 Election campaign: the duels 0Oct 8, 17 767 thousand
2017 Pulse 4 Election campaign: elephant round Sep 24 17th 667 thousand
2017 ATV Confrontation of the top candidates 0Oct. 1, 17 588 thousand

Data: AGTT / GfK TELETEST. Austria as a whole. Target group 12+ (people older than 12 years)
Y: year; Sd: transmitter; Duration in h; DRW% and T: Average range in percent and thousands; MA: market share


Quota records SRF Deutschschweiz
J Sd program date Beginning Duration Advice. T
2013 SRF two Ice hockey: World Cup Finland / Sweden, Final Switzerland - Sweden May 19, 13 20:30 1:38 1,178 thousand  
2014 SRF two Soccer: FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil : Round of 16 Argentina - Switzerland 0July 1st 14th 18:00 2:09 1,506 Th.  
2015 SRF 1 daily News Oct 18, 15 7:30 p.m. 0:32 1,022 th.  
2016 SRF two Soccer: UEFA Euro 2016 Switzerland - France June 16, 16 21:00 1:33 1,567 thousand  
2017 SRF two Alpine skiing: World Cup , St. Moritz men's downhill Feb 12, 17 13:29 1:19 1,076 thousand  
2018 SRF two Soccer: FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia : Brazil - Switzerland June 17th 18 20:00 1:38 1,618 thousand  

Dates: Mediapulse TV panel / German-speaking Switzerland / January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2017 / 3+ years / Overnight + 7 (live + time-shifted use up to 7 days after first broadcast). Note: From the news program "Tagesschau" and from the program "Meteo" afterwards, only the most viewed edition is shown.
J: year; Sd: transmitter; Duration in h; Rating T: Rating (viewing participation / average range) in thousands

United States

The rating record for the last episode of the TV series M * A * S * H from 1983 (106 million viewers, 79.2% of households) was achieved by the broadcast of " Super Bowl XLIV " on February 7, 2010 with 106, 5 million viewers replaced, followed by the episode Who Done It? (Eng. Who shot JR?) of the television series Dallas . The other places in the top ten are occupied by the last episode of Roots , four Super Bowl broadcasts, the figure skating duel between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding at the 1994 Winter Olympics and a broadcast of Gone With the Wind (in two parts, therefore twice represented in the list).


In France, the ratings are determined by Médiamétrie . Holding the records for 2009

  • 1st place: the broadcast of the charity concert Les Enfoirés with 12.3 million,
  • 2nd place: the France-Ireland football match with 11.7 million and
  • 3rd place: an episode of the television series Dr. House with 10.2 million TV viewers.


The quota record in Italy was held by the final of the 2006 World Cup between Italy and France with 24 million viewers (84.11%) .


Technical equipment for recording

From the perspective of social research , audience ratings can be criticized. There are doubts both as to whether the number of viewers can actually be quantified with relative certainty using the means used and whether the quality of the viewing is sufficiently taken into account. Whether someone watches music TV for hours or the news as the only program of the day is likely to differ in quality (receptivity, concentration, duration of total television consumption, etc.). Furthermore, it is questionable whether a sample of people who are willing to have their television consumption documented can be viewed as representative of the population.

Composition of the panel

According to Süddeutscher Zeitung, the selection of households in Germany to be considered in the panel is based on data from the federal electoral registers . As a result, foreigners, for example, are underrepresented. It was not until 2001 that 140 foreign households were added to the panel. There are also gaps in the area of ​​television consumption that does not take place in households: offices, hotels, barracks, old people's and nursing homes, hospitals, but also student dormitories and shared apartments are not equipped with the “quota box”. Therefore, the informative value of the extrapolated audience ratings is questioned again and again. However, there is currently no sensible alternative to the GfK figures for a panel that would represent the composition of the population more precisely.

Reliability of the panel members

The reliability of the viewing data collected depends on the reliability with which the panel members operate the technical equipment for recording television viewing habits. It cannot be checked whether a member is actually always reliably pressing the correct button on the specially equipped remote control.

Significance of the determined "audience"

The separation of quality and quantity often gives ratings in Germany a dominant position that is sociologically and psychologically incomprehensible. A weighting factor is missing . The discussion as to whether public service broadcasting allows itself to be guided too much by audience ratings in its programming and thereby compromises too much in terms of content quality or in its constitutional basic service mandate has intensified due to competition with private broadcasting, for example as the Westdeutsche Rundfunk in 1995 replaced its youth station WDR 1 with 1 Live , which was more geared towards “ transparency ” .

Secondary sources

New types of media, including smart TV , social networks (e.g. Twitter ) and search engines (e.g. Google Trends ), website views , viewer feedback (e-mail, telephone, SMS) and sales of merchandising products for the ones shown Programs, but also the success of the advertised products and services, are important secondary sources for calculating audience ratings. Smart TVs provide valuable information about the programs watched in real time thanks to their constant internet connection . Televoting and lottery hotlines can evaluate the number of calls according to quantitative, temporal and geographical criteria. The telephone code provides more precise information than the viewer's IP address .

See also


“The Quota Makers” is a German-Swiss television film by Christoph Weinert from the year 2000 for the series Das kleine Fernsehspiel (ZDF / 3sat). Private detective Schmilinsky determines the audience rating. A critical and ironic look at the ratings hysteria in the television business. The film uses a documentary-fictional hybrid form: private detective Schmilinsky takes on a delicate assignment. It should determine how the ratings on German television actually come about. During his research, Schmilinsky falls into the sights of dubious characters who ultimately seek his life.

Free Rainer is a German cinema film by the Austrian director Hans Weingartner from 2007. The media satire describes the conversion of the television producer Rainer from a quota-oriented maker of lower-class television to an educator who manipulates large-scale quota boxes with a small group of people to get “better” numbers to produce. He turns his insight, "If you just give people enough crap, at some point they want nothing more than this crap," and thus leads the program makers to offer more sophisticated content that is enthusiastically accepted in Weingartner's utopia.

Web links

Wiktionary: audience rating  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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