September 25, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

Broadcast TV suits were in a tizzy Tuesday over how NBC is taking advantage of a new Nielsen rule that allows the Peacock to report a single rating for two airings of the new Heroes episode this week. As long as NBC repeats the show with the same content and commercials (not so difficult, since the drama had only one sponsor, Nissan, on Sept. 24), NBC can average the audience from debut night (6.5/15 in 18-49, 14.1 million viewers) with whatever unduplicated viewers it attracts during the Saturday repeat, and then release that final number next Tuesday. A bigger average could mean bigger ad dollars! NBC specifically requested the number from Nielsen, which (of course) charges for the service.

What really has the competition worked up, however, is how Nielsen will only report NBC’s premiere-week average based on 21 hours of programming. In other words, that hour-long repeat of Heroes won’t be included. (Averages for ABC and CBS, meanwhile, will be based on 22 hours of programming, and for Fox, on 15.) By omitting that Heroes repeat, NBC’s average could look better and ultimately improve its ranking during the most important week of the Nielsen season. Still, any resourceful journalist could take the time to figure out NBC’s weekly average by including the repeat — and trust us, we plan to.

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