Putting people (back) into the television audience

Nielsen’s decision to include College dormitory viewing as part of the Nielsen people meter ratings should provide a welcome bit of relief for those broadcasters whose programming targets younger people. Wayne Friedman at MediaDailyNews explains:

In a pilot test conducted by Nielsen last October, many 18–34-skewing networks and programs gained traction. “Adult Swim” showed big 20 percent gains in viewing, MTV was up 10 percent, and ESPN had 6 percent more 18–34 viewers. Two now-defunct networks also saw improvements: WB was up 6 percent, and UPN was 4 percent higher. The traditional networks–which are generally older-skewing–scored smaller gains than cable networks: ABC and Fox each grew 3 percent; NBC was 2 percent better; and CBS inched up 1 percent.
I hate to be cynical, but you won’t hear an abundance of complaints about methodologies or sample size with this announcement, because it’s actually a form of good news. What do you do when your universe is shrinking? Add people to the universe (maybe I don’t hate being cynical so much after all). It’s kind of like printing money when you’re running low.

I think these folks (and others) should be a part of the universe, and I’m happy to see Nielsen acknowledging that TV viewing isn’t just done in the home. It’s always been an issue of methodology in the past, and we have to assume Nielsen knows what they’re doing (did I actually say that?). Heading into 2007, broadcasters are going to need all the help they can get, and Nielsen works for us, right?

Nielsen has also announced plans to “fuse” internet and broadcasting numbers to provide its customers with another way to sell advertising. As I’ve written before, however, I don’t expect new media measurement systems to come from incumbent media players, of which Nielsen is certainly one. We’ll see.

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