Missing US TV Viewers Hide in Student Dorms

08 March 2005

Figures soon to be released by US television ratings measurement specialist Nielsen Media Research are expected to uncover "significant" new viewing in the crucial 18-to-34 age demographic.

The two-year study of college student viewing, commissioned by media giant Viacom, is in response to TV companies' dismay at the omission of campuses from ratings.

The latest hit show among students not officially counted is NewsCorp-owned Fox TV's soapy teenfest The OC, a mix of handsome guys, gorgeous girls, a glamorous location and some genuinely clever writing.

According to Fox, each episode attracts viewing parties of up to 200 young people in dorms across the nation, but these viewers do not figure in the all important young-adult ratings.

The networks have long lobbied Nielsen to quantify college-campus viewing. Also missing from the figures are bars, hotels, prisons, offices and military housing, among other out-of-home venues.

The reason for these omissions, says Nielsen, is cost and technology problems. The latter, which involves people meters, can monitor the viewing of at least two guests. But the people meter cannot handle dozens or hundreds of 'visitors' viewing together in a dorm lounge.

Garth Ancier, chairman and ceo of Viacom's Time Warner WB network which targets the 18-34 age group, welcomes the report's preliminary findings: "It's what we've been saying all along. A lot of these kids are glued to their TVs."

To help capture and measure out-of-home TV viewing, Nielsen is testing several new devices, among them a gadget that clips onto clothing and records the sound of any TV a person may encounter during the day -- whether at the gym, the office or at home.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff