Nielsen to Hone TV Ratings Methodology

23 February 2005

Dominant US TV audience measurement specialist Nielsen Media Research has finally moved to quell the mounting wave of criticism from networks and stations - to say nothing of ad agencies, media analysts and political ax-grinders [WAMN: 01-Dec-04].

Two big issues confront the TV researcher as it struggles to move its ratings methodology into the twenty-first century.

The first is demographics that accurately take account of the changing composition of US households, most notably Hispanic population growth.

Issue two is the adoption of new technology that reflects the increasing popularity of video on demand, digital cable channels and ad-skipping digital video recorders such as TiVo.

Nielsen has presented its latest thinking in an eight-page letter to clients. It includes a proposal to set aside $2.5 million (€1.91m; £1.32m) to fund methodological research over a twelve month period.

This will be conducted in cooperation with its clients - rather than unilaterally as before - with results determining the budget for second-year spending.

Admits Nielsen's US president/ceo Susan D Whiting: "We need to do something to say 'it's not business as usual'."

Longtime media industry analyst Joe Mandese, who edits online trade publication MediaPost, speaks for many when he echoes Whiting: "Nielsen had to do something. Because if it didn't, someone else would."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff