Better Television Audience Measurement Through Cable And Satellite Set Top Boxes

Bill Harvey
Next Century Media
Tony Jarvis
Russ Booth
MediaCom/Grey Global Group


Sample size has been only one of the major challenges to the accurate measurement of television audiences. However, this dimension has become increasingly critical, as the number of channels available to the average home has increased dramatically over the past two decades. The situation in a typical top-ten local market in the United States, for example, is that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spot TV advertising have been guided by data from only about 300-metered homes. In the average minute across the day fewer than 100 of these homes are tuned to TV, with the audience divided among over 100 channels. Although intermittent diary surveys using a thousand or more diaries in each market per survey are also used (four to six times per year over only four weeks), the latter data are conformed to the meter data, so that the effect of these additional data does not enhance the sample size of the household ratings at all. The diaries merely append people viewing data within the framework of the meter ratings. Some major advertisers such as Procter & Gamble have announced the intention to cut back on their use of spot television as an advertising medium as a result of the weakness of the measurement tools available for this medium (sample size being only one of their main concerns). The current situation in the United States quite obviously cries out for change.