There are many channels in the United States, from the massive (USA, CNN, etc.) to the tiny. So many, in fact, that it does seem possible that at some hours of the day, no one — as in zero humans — is watching them. It's also possible, of course, that this is where the problems of Nielsen Media Research, which has a monopoly on quantifying ratings, show themselves. If 324 ordinary Joe Shmoes — or 4,000 — did, in fact, watch one of the shows below, but none of those Joe Shmoes is in a Nielsen household, then those viewings do not register. Or, as Nielsen put it when I posed this question to them recently, the shows at the very bottom of the weekly cable list, the ones that get 0.0 total viewers, do not meet "minimum reporting thresholds."
And yet, it does stand to reason that with hundreds and hundreds of available channels, there could be instances every week when not a single soul is tuning in to certain shows. When there are no longer broadcast networks and cable channels, and everything is digital and on-demand, we can look back at this period and marvel at its ridiculous economics.
I took a random week (Feb. 25-March 3) and delved into what sorts of shows — and cable channels — are members of the Zero Club. I excluded paid programming. And that left 35 shows that got zeros. You did not watch them. I did not watch them either. But here they are.
1) "WPRA Today," RFD (Feb. 25, 6:30 a.m.). And 12 other shows on RFD!
What does WPRA stand for, you ask? Why, it's the Women's Professional Rodeo Association. And there is a show about it. Having not previously known about channel RFD, which bills itself as "Rural America's Most Important Network," I am now obsessed with it. (If you are curious what RFD stands for, it's "Rural Free Delivery," and as for what that means, it's so complicated there's a whole explainer about it on the website.)
RFD focuses on agriculture, equine issues of the day, lifestyle, youth, and livestock auctions. Unfortunately, my cable provider, Time Warner Cable, does not feature RFD — like I needed another reason to hate Time Warner Cable. (Dish and DirecTV customers, I am jealous of you, and I am coming over, k?)
But RFD may want to reconsider their programming mix, because there were 12 other RFD shows that also got zero viewers: FFA Today (Feb. 27, 4 a.m.), Ken McNabb (Feb. 28, 6 a.m.), All Around Performance Horse (Feb. 27, 6 a.m.), Presleys' Country Jubilee (Feb. 28, 3:30 a.m.), Dennis Reis (Feb. 27, 6:30 a.m.), Julie Goodnight (March 1, 6:30 a.m.), Voices of Agriculture (Feb. 27, 4:30 a.m.), US Dressage (Feb. 27, 3:30 a.m.), Little Britches Rodeo (Feb. 27, 3 a.m.), Ren's Old Time Music (Feb. 25 and 26, 5:30 a.m.), Chris Cox (Feb. 26, 6 a.m.), and Campfire Café (Feb. 25, 3:30 a.m.). Nielsen families! I call to you to watch these shows! In the middle of the night!
14) "Birth Day" (Feb. 26, 7 a.m.) and 15) "Total Body Sculpt With Gilad" (Feb. 25, 6:30 a.m.), Discovery Fit & Health
This show was on in the early 2000s, and it would film real births, introducing you to the mothers, the doctors, the nurses, and the families. It could get kind of graphic! And I guess it's still on in reruns once in a while. Total Body Sculpt with Gilad, a workout show on Discovery Fit & Health (which evolved from Discovery Health when that channel turned into OWN), got zero viewers too.
16) "Remexa," Tr3s (Feb. 25, 3 a.m.). And four other shows on Tr3s.
It should be noted that over the years, Nielsen has been criticized for underrepresenting minorities, and has tried to fix things, particularly with Latino viewers, who continue to become a bigger part of the overall audience. But whatever tweaks Nielsen has made, Tr3s, which used to be called MTV Tr3s, seems to be having some problems. The bilingual channel aimed at young Latino audiences has a slew of programs that were watched by zero people using these metrics. This music program, ReMexa, is one. And here are a bunch of others: Cafeina (Feb. 27, 7 a.m.), Music My Guey (Feb. 26, 2:30 a.m.), Videosomnia (5 a.m.), and a rerun of MTV's Friendzone (March 1, 1 a.m.). The zero-ness of it all made me turn to the weekly channel rankings, and Tr3s is dead last in total day and prime-time viewership, which means RFD is ahead of it. Go RFD!
21) "For What It's Worth" (March 2, 3:30 a.m.) and 22) "That Metal Show 4" (March 3, 2:30 a.m.), VH1 Classic
VH1 Classic isn't doing much better than Tr3s, frankly — it's in the basement too, hanging out with its friend Tr3s. (At least I hope they're friends.) For What It's Worth is Gary Dell'Abate of Howard Stern fame's new Antiques Roadshow-like series about pop culture memorabilia. Its best showing of the week drew 56,000 viewers. The 3:30 a.m. on early Saturday morning got 56,000 fewer than that. Baba Booey indeed! He wasn't alone in Zero Club among VH1 Classic shows: That Metal Show 4 is a talk show about, you know, metal, and this was a rerun; there haven't been any new episodes since the fall.
23) "Bump!" (Feb. 26, 10:30 a.m.), Logo
This LGBT travel show is of Canadian origin. This episode was from its sixth season. If a Canadian LGBT travel show goes to Mardi Gras, but no one watches the episode, did anyone really win any beads?
24) "Trending 10" (Feb. 25, 4 a.m.) and 25) "Ex-Wives of Rock" (Feb. 25, 2:30 a.m.), Fuse
Trending 10 is a celebrity/pop-culture news show, as its name suggests. It's on weeknights at 7:30 p.m. Very few people watch it then too; its best-rated episode of the week drew 54,000 viewers. Still, that is more than zero viewers. There was another Fuse show that night that drew an audience of zero: an airing of Ex-Wives of Rock, a Canadian reality show about the ex-wives of such metal luminaries as Vince Neil and Jani Lane. Which sounds fantastic! So annoyed that I don't get Fuse. Time Warner Cable, damn you! Damn you to hell. (Update: Fuse is available on Time Warner Cable; I have no idea why it turned up as unavailable when I did the search the first time. However, I do not take back my damning of Time Warner Cable. Because they are still terrible.)
26) "Fox Soccer News" (March 2, 4 a.m.), Fox Soccer
I had no idea what Fox Soccer was. It just seemed so implausible that in America there would be a whole channel devoted to soccer (as I type this, I'm realizing there are probably several). But when I Googled "Fox Soccer," I found a story from literally that day saying that the network was being canceled. Fox Soccer, I hardly knew ye. RIP.
27) "NBA Gametime" (Feb. 26, 11 a.m.) and 28) "NBA Gametime" (Feb. 26, 11:30 a.m.), NBA TV
You've probably noticed that most of the programs on this list are on in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. An 11 a.m. zero is sort of a surprise! Also, twice in a row no one cared about this show.
29) "Campmeeting" (Feb. 27, 5 a.m.) and 30) "Humanitarian" (Feb. 28 and March 1, 9 a.m.), INSP
I'm not going to lie: INSP, which I at first took for a Myers-Briggs-type indicator or a NASDAQ stock symbol, was not on my radar. It broadcasts reruns of wholesome family fare — Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and the like. The INSP mission statement makes it clear that the channel is for people of faith, and its small amount of original programming targets that audience. This Campmeeting show, which, according to the INSP website, "blesses viewers with life-changing messages from world renowned speakers, and provides amazing worship by famous musical artists," is repeated often, and its most-watched episode of the week got 88,000 viewers (for a 2 a.m. airing, strangely: the underserved Christian insomniac demo?). I couldn't get a sense of what the sense of the show, really, and the website is a donation page. As far as what Humanitarian is, I was unable to find out a single bit of information about what that show is, even on the INSP site.
31) "Highlight Express" (Feb. 25, 2:30 a.m.), ESPN News
As someone who has fallen asleep to ESPN News and kept it on all night accidently as Highlight Express showed over and over and over, I took this one personally. Which is irrational.
32) "Headline Country" (Feb. 28, 3:30 a.m.) and 33) "Origins" (Feb. 27, 3 a.m.) 34) "B. Original" (Feb. 26, 11 a.m.), GAC
GAC stands for Great American Country, a channel that devotes itself to country/Southern living. Headline Country is a country-music news show; Origins is interviews with country stars about their careers and lives. B. Original is a crafts show. When I first Googled it, I thought it was a DIY show solely about fixing up birdhouses because that was the first result. And that sounded unbelievably great. I then found out that it's broader than that. Oh well.
35) "Morning Breath" (Feb. 27, 5 a.m.), Mun2
Mun2 is another channel aimed at the younger Latino audience. And we could start wondering anew here about Nielsen and Latino viewers. But we can probably also agree that Morning Breath is by far the worst name of any show on television. This is a music-video block; based on the name, I am close to calling for a boycott. Terrible!