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October 3, 2015

Nielsen announces big increase in number of Nielsen families

by Brad Trechak, posted Sep 27th 2007 11:01AM

Retro TelevisionNielsen Media is apparently looking to almost triple the number of homes over the next 4 years that report Nielsen ratings, according to an MSNBC article. Currently the company has 12,000 households with 35,000 people and it is looking to increase it to 37,000 homes with 100,000 people.

Frankly, I think the entire ratings system should be overhauled. Since there are now so many different methods of watching a television show, from iTunes to DVRs to DVDs, it has become impossible to track exactly how many people and of what type are watching a show. From the article, it does sound like Nielsen is trying to move in this direction with more sophisticated tracking. The networks now even want Nielsen to break down the viewership by age, race and whether they understand Linux for more target marketing. Isn't that a form of discrimination?

One mention in the article I find puzzling is that Nielsen will now combine ratings for an entire week for one television episode. In other words, if a show is broadcast to 10 million people and is rebroadcast later in the week to 4 million, the ratings will be considered 14 million for that week. It sounds like a way of artificially inflating ad revenues to me.

If you're interested in joining the family of Nielsen and having your television viewing count, you can download an Adobe Acrobat document from their homepage for more information.

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Oooh comment arguments. But yeah...Nielsen is pretty accurate. They REALLY go out of their way to make sure their sample is statistically accurate. And they're rolling out A2/M2, which is Anywhere Anytime Media Measurement, so they'll soon be tracking media use in multiple ways - college students away from home (that's actually already started), DVR watching (for up until 1 week after the episode aired), streaming programs on the internet, cell phone media use, ipod/mp3 player media use...pretty much everything. I guess we'll see what happens to ratings of our shows after all these changes...

September 27 2007 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel Keller

@Mont: thanks for catching it. I fixed it for Brad. My fault for not noticing it to begin with.

September 27 2007 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Midnight Penguin

LOL Bash, while I agree that the remote still has issues, and your idea is the best, the practicality of actually putting it into practice I have a feeling would be too much money that Neilsen isn't willing to put out. The only thing I could think of to try to make it more "true" would be to quiz them after? But that opens up an entire other can of worms. Not enough room here. =) And until another company can come in with a better way to do what Neilsen does, Neilsen IS the best way and I think they're taking the proper steps to continue to grow and try to reflect America's changing viewing habits.

September 27 2007 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Spell check your headline

September 27 2007 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Penguin the problem I have is the remote. To get real accurate data, people's sight should be tracked and everything that's put on TV should have watermarks that can be found when the "video" from recording the viewers vision is checked for what he/she saw.

Anyway, I think what Nielsen does is still the best approach to things. You can't just simply stop doing it. Even if you get an awfal representation of what's actually going on the networks need data to work with and in the end people (!) decide what to order. It's not simply a rational decision where you look at two numbers and the higher one wins.

I mean honestly - if this system upsets people so much you should take a look at the electoral college system. Now that is a ridiculous way to vote and count people's opinions. And don't get me startet on Florida 2000 and the punchcards.

September 27 2007 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Martin trust me, I'm as "unfriendly" and "direct" in person. I might not say "you are an idiot" but don't you think that when I say a sentence like "So you went to university and you actually think that..." is just the same?

It might be more subtle, but I am still that direct and in-your-face.

So please don't use that "the anonymity on the internet made you say that". Trust me. I'm the same offline and people hate me for telling them what I think plenty. I'm simply not one of those guys who think something and don't say it to get by easier, without friction.

September 27 2007 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Midnight Penguin

Over at the futoncritic.com they have some very well put-together columns on how Neilsen works. It's still on the front page, go read #8 "box or not you are represented in the neilsen ratings."

Reading some of these responses, it seems many of you that dislike the system think that Neilsen just gives out 12K "random" boxes - not so, they can't be relied on for such data without actually knowing what they are doing. They DO take into account MULTIPLE factors when giving these boxes out. In regards to the Detroit comment, sure, they give a box to the 35yo white man in Detroit, but in a similar community as Detroit (money/poverty/education/probably a lot more factors) they will give the box to that neighbor 35yo black man, and another similar community to the 35yo married white man and so on and so forth.

To claim that the system needs to be thrown out does not look to solve anything. TV is a business and they require hard numbers to make the money from their advertisers. DVR's are taken into account when they do some of their numbers, but they must be watched by 3AM the following day to be counted.

I also think it's safe to say most people don't understand how the viewing works for a Neilsen household. These houses CANNOT own a DVR (which is only a small percentage that do anyways) but instead have a fancy remote. When the member sits down they click a button. It's not data that can be faked, unless they want to go through tons of hoops to creatively make a machine that can click the buttons while the family/individual is away. Thus, if you and your kids are out at a soccer game and can't get back for the seven o'clock show on time, you aren't counted. But once you turn it on at 730, that's where you see the turn of the half-hour changes, who jumps in and who jumps off. Again, this is all done via remote. I'd say that that's pretty accurate assuming that the data pool they're gathering from is accurate.

If I had to fill out a form instead, what's to keep me from lying on it? Say that I really want a show to stay on air that might be so-so in ratings - I just check the box that I watched it even if I had missed it. The data's not controlled.

In regards to adding together showings in a week, I think they need to look at the reasons people are either watching for the first time or rewatching. I am interested in watching the CW's GOSSIP GIRL, but unfortunately it conflicts with my two other TIVO's and so I don't get it on first run. No problem, it's set to NOT be in first night record because they're going to show it again! Same thing with FX shows, they get repeated so I always can catch the repeat due to conflicts. If they can separate out the repeat watches on the later showings and count the "new" viewers I think then that is a good thing Neilsen is doing. Heck, it may even bring about a change in what programming we see on Saturday nights, if it gives the network a chance to make extra money KNOWING that this will happen.

September 27 2007 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Even their proposed improvements aren't statistically significant. They need to really consider DVRs, TiVOs, viewings on the web sites of the stations, and iTunes. Either that or just do away with it altogether and design a new system. This explains why the average lifespan of a new show on Fox is three episodes.

September 27 2007 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

35k is insufficient because of the complexity of the viewer population and the many viewing options.

For example: a 35yo white single male living in detroit is not watching the same thing as his neighbor (a 35yo black single male) or that guys neighbor (a 35yo white married male) or his neighbor (35yo black single male earing 65k/yr) and on and on. Thats with 3 controlled variables (age/sex/loc).

You can extrapolate data on less complex systems, such as black bear population diet. Because all the bears act similarly to similar environmental constraints or all bears living in detroit only have a few dietary options so you can watch 3 and determine what the entire population eats.

On a side note Bash, you are a good example of how anonymity on the internet threatens the original beauty of the system.

September 27 2007 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

my roommate and I do those surveys so we'd already giving "how i met your mother" and "30 rock" tons of good feelings, before "the reaper"--and after "the class." :(

ps. we dont have any cable and watch some shows online, and the survey notes this.

television karma's the best!

September 27 2007 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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