Trump praises OAN for ‘ratings surge’ that doesn’t exist

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Donald Trump issued a press statement — similar to the other tweet-like releases he’s done since being banned indefinitely from most major social media platforms — congratulating OAN on a “great ratings surge.”

There’s only one problem — neither OAN nor Trump actually have any comprehensive way to measure the network’s ratings so it’s not entirely clear why Trump thinks such a thing is happening.

The upstart extreme ring wing “news” network that’s become a favorite stomping ground of Trump surrogates, conspiracy theorists and others with far right views, has such a small audience it doesn’t pay to subscribe to Nielsen’s ratings services, largely consider the gold standard of TV measurement (though Trump and OAN likely would have something to say about how the ratings system is “biased”).

Most TV stations and networks who pay for Nielsen do so for purpose of tracking their own numbers and standings in the ratings race and tout those numbers to advertisers.

Without access to Nielsen data, it’s pretty tough for OAN to make any sort of fact-based claim about its ratings. There’s no definitive way for it to track how many people are viewing its content except on streaming and digital.

While there are networks and stations with high ratings that opt not to subscribe to Nielsen, many of those who opt not to do so simply because they have made the decision that it doesn’t bring value to their business model.

However, most free networks rely heavily on ad dollars to make revenue and profits and advertisers tend to like to know how many people are watching — as well as data such as their sex and age.

There’s typically a threshold of reach and viewership that a network or channel has to reach for it to be official tracked by Nielsen. Part of this is because if viewership is extremely low, it’s difficult for Nielsen to make calculations based on the pool of data it often pulls from to estimate total viewership.

Nielsen has and does issue ratings of 0, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that literally no one was watching — it just means that it had so few viewers it didn’t even register as a ratings point (which is defined as 1% of viewers in a particular audience block).

Trump could be basing his claim on how much more he and perhaps others in his circle are watching the network (even over Fox’s commentary channel that he has a on-again, off-again relationship with — and does receive ratings data).