Everybody watched

It was a moment that electrified Venezuela. The opening of the MUD-run National Assembly drew astronomical viewing figures on TV.

The blackout was lifted. For the first time in years, mass media returned to the Hemiciclo, and it did so with a bang. Ratings agency Nielsen released the performance of the main domestic channels that covered one of the most intense moments in Venezuelan contemporary politics, and they’re stunning.

Viewing shares doubled regular audience shares during the installation of the National Assembly. As could have been expected, allowing channels outside of SIBCI’s grasp back into the National Assembly multiplied the event’s reach.

Nielsen ratings (here’s an explanation of how they work) show that at peak audience -between 2:00 and 3:00PM – Venevisión, Globovisión, Televén and VTV had a combined rating of 14.07. Let me put this into perspective for a second.

Remember that cult show New-Yorker-reading folks enjoy called Mad Men? Well, its finale that gave one of the most memorable scenes in TV history, produced a 3+ rating in the USA.

How about Breaking Bad? Amazing finale, brilliant show, instant classic. Just over the 5.2 mark en el Imperio.

Miss Universe 2015 was scandalous thanks to an ending we did not see coming. Here, in a land that lives for beauty pageants, it got a 6.3 in the Nielsen ratings.

I’ll do you one better: Last weekend’s NFL’s playoff wildcard games, one of the biggest highlights in sports broadcasting worldwide, got CBS a 10.1 rating.

And all these examples of pretty good results for television pale in comparison to the impact of a mere political event a week ago. C-Span, eat your heart out.

Unsurprisingly, VTV represents only a modest portion of that astounding result, with a 3.07 (still about the same viewing rating Mad Men got, mind you). Yet, by their standards, that represents a huge hit. Not even the flagship shows they carry – La Hojilla, Cayendo y Corriendo, Con El Mazo Dando – manage to reach 1% of the national share, which is pretty sad. I mean, two former candidates to publicly elected office and the current vice president of the revolution’s party cannot muster a mere 1%?

Funny, it took a 180 degree change in the National Assembly for VTV to finally perform decently.

On the other hand, Venevisión, the country’s largest television broadcaster, managed to reach a peak rating of 5.14 points. Globovisión also saw their ratings skyrocket during this event, as did Televen (excluding when Quién Quiere Ser Millonario is on, their best performing show) with a peak performance of 3.31 and 3.19 respectively.

These numbers are worth keeping in mind for a very good reason: chavista channels haven’t caught up after 16 years of revolution and in spite of being the owners of the lion’s share of the radio spectrum.

Maduro’s threat to Globovisión and Televén for transmitting the National Assembly’s sessions live is more than justified to loyalists: their disobedience is indeed dangerous for them. 

Once again, and after several years of absence, private media has the reach required to potentially make or break paradigms in public opinion. And they see the way the wind blows. Or did you miss Henry Ramos Allup’s interview with Vladimir Villegas on Globovision yesterday?