Do they really measure what people watch?

Peter Danaher and Terence Beed

In the many TV markets now measured by peoplemeters, there are still lurking doubts about the human factor. This brief article reports a useful New Zealand coincidental survey to check levels of compliance - ie accurate button pushing - by the AGB panel there. It was soothingly high: also the 'reported viewing index' (the degree to which detected misreports cancel each other out) found the peoplemeter results close to reality; and panel wearout does not seem a worrying factor.

Peoplemeters are undoubtedly superior to diaries for television audience measurement. They are better at measuring cable and satellite channels, measure VCR recording and playback; and they provide minute by minute ratings. The major advantage of peoplemeters over diaries is that they record what people are actually watching, not what they recall having watched. But do they?