Nielsen is changing the way they measure audiences. They plan to increase sample sizes, incorporate Set Top Box Data (defined below), and use a new device called a code reader. In short, their main push is to provide more consistent ratings across markets.
A little background
Currently 150+ of the 210 total Nielsen markets are diary only markets. This means that Nielsen relies solely on the self-recorded viewing habits of people who agree to be a part of their surveys. Diary only markets range from small to pretty big (Rochester, for instance).
The remaining 60 markets use two different methodologies: Set Meter and Local People Meter. Set Meters are small devices connected to televisions in agreeable homes; it allows market researchers to study TV viewing habits by the minute. Local People Meters are reporting devices that allow Nielsen to separate household viewing into demographic groups.
What does this change mean?
Let’s start first with the sample sizes.
Lead Planner Kelly Kilpatrick: “They will increase sample sizes, quadrupling effective sample size in Local People Meter and Set Metered markets, doubling effective sample size in Diary markets. This increase should result in an increase in rating stability.” In addition, it will reduce zero rated periods, or times when a show gets a rating of zero. “With the current methodology, if a few people don’t fill out a diary for a given period of time, it might look like, for instance, no one watched the morning news, which is unlikely.”
Rentrak, Nielsen’s competitor, already uses Set Top Box Data, which is data pulled from satellite boxes and cable boxes. So, in a sense, Nielsen is playing a bit of catch up. (Nielsen now has partnerships with DirecTV and a small cable company.)
Both the memo Nielsen sent out and the MediaPost article give little information on the value and purpose of the code reader.
How to move forward
Again, Kelly Kilpatrick: “As we get more information on this change from Nielsen, I will be sure to share it. In the meantime, measurement for Nielsen will proceed as it currently is.”
We’ll check back in with Kelly as we learn more.