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Nielsen Struggles To Track Modern Viewing Habits

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the watching-the-watchers dept.

Television 248

RobotRunAmok writes "The Nielsen Company has been the principal entity tracking TV shows' popularity, and, by extension, their potential profitability. But as our media consumption practices change, some believe that Nielsen's methods have not kept pace. A new consortium including networks owned by NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, Viacom, CBS, Discovery, and Walt Disney — along with major advertisers — is calling for the creation of a new audience measurement service, and planning to solicit bids from outside firms by the fourth quarter of this year. Nielsen says they're not worried about so many of their customers ganging up on them, having just invested more than a billion dollars in research to stay modern. Except that today Nielsen announced they would pointedly not be adding weights to DVR households, and that adding weights for the presence of a personal computer or Internet access in under-represented households would provide 'no significant change or enhancement' to its national TV ratings sample. The pundits deride Nielsen's 'archaic' methodology and 'disco-era tactics,' but others scoff that such a consortium will only 'put the foxes in charge of the henhouse.' Stay tuned..."

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Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 5 years ago | (#29190231)

Seriously, is there anyone under the age of 40 who DOESN'T use a DVR anymore? And I don't mean the "I don't even *OWN* a TV!" snobs, I'm talking about average people. I can't imagine going back to watching live TV, and can't believe that Nielsen is still not taking me adequately into account. I think they do finally factor in some DVR's now (contrary to the summary), but only one per household and only under weirdly strict conditions (like having to watch the show within 24 hrs. of its airing).

Okay, I can understand them not weighing us DVR watchers as much as grandma watching her stories on live TV (since we're a lot less likely to actually watch the ads that the Nielsens are all about). But to only count us under a few conditions is to ignore the reality that we're in the 21st century (some of us are even watching *gasp* HD content, which Nielsen is also still undervaluing).

Come on, I'm tired of seeing crap network shows that my great-aunt watches in the top ten and the shows *I* like getting shitcanned for "low ratings." I would even be willing to "opt-in" to a DVR viewing log system if it meant that my viewing habits could save a few decent shows.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 5 years ago | (#29190327)

Come on, I'm tired of seeing crap network shows that my great-aunt watches in the top ten and the shows *I* like getting shitcanned for "low ratings." I would even be willing to "opt-in" to a DVR viewing log system if it meant that my viewing habits could save a few decent shows.

Preach it, brother. ABC is especially notorious about coming up with interesting new shows (that probably appeal to the 18-34 audience that has almost universally adopted DVRs), and then canceling them because the numbers appear bad. But hey, we've got more shows where we watch annoying 15 year olds try to sing! So we've got that going for us.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (2, Interesting)

RawJoe (712281) | about 5 years ago | (#29191115)

Even is there was a DVR-viewing log, would it save your shows? Ok, you watch it on DVR, but chances are you don't watch the ads. An advertiser would be foolish to pay as much for an ad if actual "ad viewership" isn't all that great. So the show is less profitable for ABC, despite how cool it is, and is canned.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

D Ninja (825055) | about 5 years ago | (#29190383)

Along with this, I don't even have my television hooked up. I only subscribe to the most basic cable because it makes my internet cheaper (which is retarded - my internet should be cheaper without any TV at all). All the television I do watch is via Hulu or through a broadcaster's website. So, they aren't counting me correctly as well.

The convenience of watching what I want, when I want is too good for me to maintain a full-time television connection. I still wait for the day when I can pay for only specific channels and not a whole "package."

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29191127)

It's cheaper with the cable because they don't have it install additional hardware to filter the cable signal that would otherwise be coming into your house, and they can't just let you have that free!

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29190431)

DVR? I don't think they ever took the VCR into account, let alone a DVR.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

JerRocks (885412) | about 5 years ago | (#29191013)

There's a big difference between the DVR and VCR. Most people used VCRs to rent movies and occasionally record a show they were going to miss.
DVRs are used by a significant amount of people to regularly watch television when it is convenient.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | about 5 years ago | (#29191039)

I have a DVR but don't use it since the Super VHS VCR provides better quality video. And yes Nielsen DOES measure "same day viewing" to include people who watch using DVRs. Nielsen also monitors internet viewing, and reports those stats as a separate number.

I don't understand what the TV companies are whining about - Nielsen's already monitoring these new media forms.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 5 years ago | (#29190459)

Uh, I know I am outside the age range you describe, but to be honest with you, I have never actually *seen* a DVR, or know anyone that uses one. And I am a serious TV watcher - at least 8 hours a day.

      Everyone either watches stuff when it's on (and most shows are repeated 10 times a week anyway - I can want Law and Order:CI 5 times a day, and 3 of them will be the same episode, so who needs to record it?), or they watch on the computer. DVR is sort of an in-between solution.

        Brett

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190573)

But can you pause your show in the event of a phone call? Can you rewind to make sure you heard the news-caster right? Can you record one show while watching another show, so you can watch the first show later? Once you go DVR you'll never go back.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190665)

It's law and order. Who cares if I miss some while I take a call? Once you give up TV, you'll never go back.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

Swizec (978239) | about 5 years ago | (#29190847)

Yes, torrents allow me to do all of that and more.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190917)

But can you pause your show in the event of a phone call?

Of course.

Can you rewind to make sure you heard the news-caster right?

Yep.

Can you record one show while watching another show, so you can watch the first show later?

Record? Do you mean download? If so then of course I can.

Once you go DVR you'll never go back.

If you could suggest any advantages compared to the internet then you'd sound more convincing. What exactly is the dvr for?

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (4, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 years ago | (#29190693)

I don't mean to insult you or anything. You could be an outlier. I am not talking about you in particular, but in general about people who watch TV 8 hours a day.

But I think most people who watch TV 8 hours a day will have pretty small disposable income. For a family of four, going from 25K a year income to 50K a year income, the total income ratio is just 2, but the disposable income ratio is going to be something like 4 or even 8. The profit margins are huge in the disposable income expenditure. When it comes to bread, milk and gas, the profit margins are very tight. That means, it is better to snag 1 hour of a family with large income than to fight to get 8 hours from a low wage earning family.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (3, Interesting)

Duradin (1261418) | about 5 years ago | (#29190483)

If your viewing habits include skipping all (or timeshifting beyond a couple days) the commercials that pay for the show I don't see why they should give DVR viewers much weight.

It's the eyeballs on commercials that count, not how many people like the show (but not enough to watch it realtime or to watch the commercials). If you like the show but don't want to watch it when it is broadcast watch it off the company's site. Then at least you'll get counted in a way that matters.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

profplump (309017) | about 5 years ago | (#29190747)

I don't see why watching a show live means I like it more than watching it delayed, or how a week delay reduces the effectiveness of (most) advertisements. Frankly I'd only watch a show in realtime if I *didn't* like it, because without the ability to rewind and pause I'm likely to miss at least some of the show.

And while streaming flash video is a handy alternative it's not at all like having a real recording. For one thing it requires using your computer, which in most cases is not hooked up to the same display you would otherwise use for the show. For another the video quality is terrible compared to what you get OTA or via cable. Finally the UI controls and seek capabilities are usually poor and impossible to integrate with a limited-interface control (like an IR remote).

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | about 5 years ago | (#29190909)

That might be true if programming content was also ad-free, but billions of dollars are spent on product placement so that you see that make of car and the logo on it while watching CSI in case you missed it in the commercial. I've worked in TV production and the efforts to get the product placed in the show are huge. We used to have to make sure every can of the drink which sponsored us was facing with the logo toward the camera at all times and the actors had to do their best not to obscure it when drinking it.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190505)

Seriously, is there anyone under the age of 40 who DOESN'T use a DVR anymore? And I don't mean the "I don't even *OWN* a TV!" snobs, I'm talking about average people. I can't imagine going back to watching live TV, and can't believe that Nielsen is still not taking me adequately into account.

You're probably right about Nielsen not accounting for your demographic, but on the flip side, I don't think your demographic is in the majority.

I'm an average person under 40. I watch TV, but I don't use a DVR. Most of my friends don't either. This is a big country. I don't think you can make generalizations based on your own demographic.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 years ago | (#29190633)

I'm an average person under 40. I watch TV, but I don't use a DVR. Most of my friends don't either. This is a big country. I don't think you can make generalizations based on your own demographic.

??? ;)

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (3, Informative)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 5 years ago | (#29190507)

Come on, I'm tired of seeing crap network shows that my great-aunt watches in the top ten and the shows *I* like getting shitcanned for "low ratings." I would even be willing to "opt-in" to a DVR viewing log system if it meant that my viewing habits could save a few decent shows.

Nielsen is NOT about how many people watch a show. It's about how many people watch the COMMERCIALS. DVR folks generally skip past those. People who watch broadcast TV cannot. Although they can get up and make a sandwich, or whatever.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

icebike (68054) | about 5 years ago | (#29190793)

Nielsen is NOT about how many people watch a show. It's about how many people watch the COMMERCIALS. DVR folks generally skip past those. People who watch broadcast TV cannot. Although they can get up and make a sandwich, or whatever.

True.

But just because they do not focus on who is using a DVR does not mean that the big cable companies have no data to sell.

The cable boxes can be polled remotely to determine what channel it is tuned to.

A comcast or a quest can and does make a tidy profit by simply adding a little software to their head end and selling the anonymous aggregate data.

Further, they can poll before a commercial, poll after a commercial and tell you how many people switched away during the commercial, which speaks to the quality of both the commercial and the show.

http://techliberation.com/2009/01/12/cable-companies-to-log-viewing-habits-is-privacy-at-risk/ [techliberation.com]

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

space_jake (687452) | about 5 years ago | (#29190539)

Why pay for a DVR it when it is on the broadcaster's website?

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

tds67 (670584) | about 5 years ago | (#29190581)

"Okay, I can understand them not weighing us DVR watchers as much as grandma..."

...because grandma only weighs 90 lbs and is easier to hoist onto the scale. DVR watchers tend to be very fat couch potatoes. Glad I don't own a TV.

It's not about how many people use a DVR ..... (3, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | about 5 years ago | (#29190587)

Let me first say I totally agree with your point. But really, I think this is about something different than what most of us logically think it should be about.

I suspect the networks and advertisers are interested, primarily, in who is tuning in to the provided programming in "real time". Even if they find out that a certain TV series is wildly popular with people who recorded it to watch later? They may still be most fixated on the numbers who thought it was worth interrupting their day or night to watch it, as soon as it hit the airwaves.

I'm not in this industry, but I can see how an advertiser would place a lot of value on knowing their commercial is being viewed in a prompt manner by viewers. (EG. If you want to run an ad talking about a special sale "this weekend only!" at your local sandwich shop or car dealership, the ad is rendered useless to anyone who "gets around to watching it" on their DVR the following week.)

Re:It's not about how many people use a DVR ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190701)

I am unable to watch live TV, because I can't skip the commercials. Commercials are not only annoying to me but being forced to watch them is anathema to me viewing television at all. In other words, without a DVR and Hulu I would never watch TV. So I guess they may have a point. I even skip the Hulu commercials.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 5 years ago | (#29190635)

Why pay for Sat or Cable when I can watch Hulu for free? Before that I bought seasons on iTunes. Honestly, for the 3 - 4 TV shows I liked to watch, it was cheaper to buy from iTunes than paying for cable for a year. Much cheaper.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | about 5 years ago | (#29190879)

Preach it, Brother!

I got one of these booklets in the mail a couple of months back, and found it hard to fill out, as the only TV I watch, comes from my media server attached to my PS3. Even trickier yet, would be counting THAT into their TV studies.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 5 years ago | (#29190933)

DVR, is that like an Torrents, NZBs and an HTPC?

After getting that of which we do not speak I'm never going back to torrents. I can Max out my Cable connection have a 30 minute show in a few minutes, an hour show in twice that.

HellaNZB is... just wow.

"Hey we missed the Daily Sow last night."
"Ok, it'll be here in a few, lets go get drinks"
ssh htpc.local;mplayer The.DailyShow.....avi

It's not use friendly yet but I like it better than XBMC.

Plus with VDPAU I can watch movies in all their HDTV glory.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

HydrusZ (539461) | about 5 years ago | (#29190945)

Having done a Nielsen log earlier this year, the format for the log was in a specific time slot you enter what you watched, what channel it aired on, what date/time it originally aired, and who in the household was watching. There is no restriction on how far back the program orginally aired. Each log is tied to a specific tv set, any of which can have a DVR or not.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29190999)

Hey, I *actually* don't even own a TV for a decade, you insensitive clod!

And so do my friends! ;)

Wow, you are a young one (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29191041)

You've got plenty of bad attitude. The relevant part of the world has habits just like YOU, people over 40 are all like grandma, and the shows *you* like get artificially low ratings for some unexplained reason. What part of the country do you live in? I need to know what direction to turn when I bow down to worship.

Re:Wow, you are a young one (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | about 5 years ago | (#29191175)

You may worship in any direction you choose. I am omnipresent.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29191093)

Seems to me DVRs are mainly used by the over 40s, while the under 40s are using streaming and torrents and often don't even own TVs.

Re:Who is running Nielsen anyway, Leslie? (1)

Reece400 (584378) | about 5 years ago | (#29191169)

Does bittorrent count as a DVR? I don't even subscibe to cable or satilite. Having my PC download what I want (mostly by RSS) is much more convenient.

Easy way to track (1)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | about 5 years ago | (#29190233)

Just check mini nova. That should show you better then anything what people are watching.

Bittorrent (1)

Surye (580125) | about 5 years ago | (#29190247)

Maybe they can justify Bittorrent "profit" losses by using download statistics to provide ratings. Nielsen is just an extrapolation anyways. At least for certain markets they could save a ton of money on this research.

Re:Bittorrent (2, Interesting)

Surye (580125) | about 5 years ago | (#29190271)

Also, add in the other forms of digital distribution, and digital cable, can't the source providers just collect their own data?

Re:Bittorrent (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | about 5 years ago | (#29190703)

Its an extrapolation sure, but you shouldn't dismiss it because of that. It is a statistically sound extrapolation.

Bad headline? (3, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | about 5 years ago | (#29190253)

The headline is inaccurate, as the story is more about how Nielsen isn't struggling to track modern viewing habits.

Re:Bad headline? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#29190473)

One wonders: are they arrogant, or just ignorant?

I'm not at all surprised that they are laying back and enjoying incumbency, rather than bothering with hard work; but not even pretending seems a bit odd.

Re:Bad headline? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 5 years ago | (#29190591)

One wonders: are they arrogant, or just ignorant?

Merely efficient. Why spend money to update your model when there's no effective competition? Bear in mind that their customers are advertising executives.

Mature companies spend ~15% of their budget on advertising. That's a given. All they care about is that the marketing department make a token effort to not completely waste that budget. And how does an advertising executive show that they're spending their budget effectively? No, it's not increased company profit; they just point at the Neilsen ratings. See why it's all so cosy, and there's no incentive to change the way it works?

Re:Bad headline? (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | about 5 years ago | (#29190617)

They sent a friend of mine a booklet and asked him to fill it in. To me that's a waste of time and space.

If they asked me to track my surfing habits, I would explain that I spend all of my time on NY Times Culture, no time at all on pR0n sites nor slashdot.

Personally I know the system is broken.... (2, Interesting)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about 5 years ago | (#29190293)

At least for my viewing habits. I maybe consistently watch maybe 1-2 shows live each week. Throw in a few hours of channel browsing, usually flipping between Discovery Channel, History Channel, Food Network, NatGeo, SciFi (SyFy), or Military Channel. That said, the shows I really watch, I am recording in HD on my custom built Home Theater PC (HTPC) for watching at my leisure, on my own schedule. It might be a week or two later before I watch a show, but I do watch them. And Neilson doesn't even count me. Probably one of the reasons why shows like Futurama were cut in the fist place, only to finally be put back into production from the out-cry and DVD sales numbers (which told them that Neilson's ratings for the show was complete utter BS).

Re:Personally I know the system is broken.... (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29190499)

Nielson doesn't count anybody that they haven't contracted to keep a diary of their viewing habits.

Re:Personally I know the system is broken.... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 years ago | (#29190699)

Correct me if I'm wrong but don't they have an agreement with TiVo to see the viewing data that TiVo collects?

Re:Personally I know the system is broken.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190601)

The BBC once found all the TVs that were not on and downloaded something to fake the statistics to make it look like one of their programmes had more viewers than they actually had.
Modern technology eh?

You'd Think (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | about 5 years ago | (#29190357)

You'd think that Nielsen would be more willing to compromise on the DVR issue, since all the "big spending" demographic groups use them heavily.

Missed opportunity (3, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29190367)

Stay tuned

Should have read "don't touch that dial!"

Damn kids, get off my lawn!

Re:Missed opportunity (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 5 years ago | (#29190981)

"don't touch that dial!"

I wonder what's on the other channel.
*clunk, clunk, clunk* [adjusts rabbit ears]

You know, ever since June 12 I Love Lucy has looked really staticy.

Foxes in charge of the henhouse... makes sense (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 years ago | (#29190395)

The media companies have a vested interest in getting the best audience data they can, so I'd say the "foxes...henhouse" argument is flawed in this case.

On a tangent - normally I watch shows on my Tivo, but lately I've used Hulu a few times to watch shows that aren't currently running "on the air". I'll tell you, it's reminded me of why I hate commercials (since you can't skip Hulu's) - it's because they are, for the most part, insipid at best! I don't actually mind smart, engaging, or funny commercials - but the vast majority are garbage, plain and simple. I can't imagine why anyone would think these ads would encourage anyone to buy a particular product. With my Tivo I use the 30-second-skip to jump the commercials. I'll actually watch ones that catch my attention (e.g. many of the Jack-in-the-Box ads); but most are just a waste of airtime.

Re:Foxes in charge of the henhouse... makes sense (2, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 5 years ago | (#29190471)

The media companies have a vested interest in getting the best audience data they can, so I'd say the "foxes...henhouse" argument is flawed in this case.

Not entirely true--- the media companies make no actual money from audience figures directly, only from advertising. So their vested interest is in getting the best-looking audience data that still looks plausible to advertisers. That's one reason advertisers want a 3rd party to collect the audience data, not the networks; it's less believable for a network to say, "oh yeah, according to our methodology 30 million people watch this show regularly, that'll be $rate please".

Re:Foxes in charge of the henhouse... makes sense (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 5 years ago | (#29190515)

The media companies have a vested interest in getting the best audience data they can, so I'd say the "foxes...henhouse" argument is flawed in this case.

The media companies have no such interest. The *customers* of the media companies (the advertisers) have that interest. The media companies have a vested interested in prying as much money as they can out of the advertisers. Which they can do by getting large audience numbers...or by forging large audience numbers. This is very much the foxes guarding the henhouse.

That's why I still use iTunes for shows (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 years ago | (#29190603)

Hulu is a nice idea but given the option I'll pay $2 an episode just not to watch ads, which as you are just insipid. Or like you say, use a DVR and just skip over commercials rapidly.

If you drop extras on your cable (or cable TV altogether) and only watch a few shows, iTunes is still cheaper than cable. And I get to watch things at my own pace.

Re:That's why I still use iTunes for shows (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29191075)

Do you watch them at a medium pace?

Re:Foxes in charge of the henhouse... makes sense (1)

Chabo (880571) | about 5 years ago | (#29190869)

How about a change back to the advertising format of Jack Benny? [youtube.com] :)

Drink Your Ovalquik! (1)

SOdhner (1619761) | about 5 years ago | (#29190401)

It's absurd that a company dedicated to providing ratings information doesn't properly track actual viewing. DVR in particular should be closely tracked, so that they can see what happens as more and more programs slip the advertising into the show itself (though hopefully in a more subtle way that Eureka! has).

Product placement (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29190595)

An episode of My Name Is earl used the Klondike Bar very effectively, with Randy soing all sorts of embarrassing things for one, and it was hilarious. I can see The Simpsons replacing Duff Beer with Miller -- product placement paid by Anheiser Busch.

Re:Drink Your Ovalquik! (1)

ulor (1355759) | about 5 years ago | (#29190661)

I admit Eureka is a bit ham handed..but why not do the old Soap Opera style of giving a recap sponsored by Such and Such company. Or have behind the scenes info on a commercial site. I can imagine "For a quick sneak peak of next week show and the bloopers from this week..visit Pizza John's which this week is offering a 2 for 1 special for viewers code word Alpha" I think this kind of advertising could do well.

Re:Drink Your Ovalquik! (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29191121)

They did a better job with Subaru than with Degree, so there is some hope for the future.

What's so hard about it (4, Insightful)

BSDimwit (583028) | about 5 years ago | (#29190427)

Maybe I am completely naive about this, but it doesn't seem like that hard of a problem to solve. Nielsen should work with cable box and satellite box manufactures/ and embed a viewing habit collection program to collect and send information back to whoever happens to care. This sound bad on the surface, but you make this program user enabled and if the user opts to share their viewing habits, that user's account is billed $5 less per month. The user, when opting in, would be presented with a screen that collects this household's demographic information such as family size, age and gender of the viewers etc, and once that is all setup, the user doesn't have to do anything but watch TV. No logs to keep, no extra boxes or contraptions to deal with. All of the current cable/satellite boxes already have the ability to send data back to mama (pay per view) so, whats a few more bytes of data.

All in all, I think we would all benefit because the networks would know which shows no one cares about and could adjust their programming quicker and the advertisers would have a better idea of how to reach their target demographic and how much they should be paying to do so.

Easy peasy.

Re:What's so hard about it (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#29190501)

Heresy! Paying consumers $5/month for their personal data would give them the dangerous notion that they own it and have some right to control how it is used. Not to mention, any money not given to a shareholder or a C-level is money wasted.

Some people.

This comes as no surprise. (2, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#29190447)

Nielsen and the Networks are joined at the hip. Nielsen measures the Networks, and the Networks get to charge advertisers according to the data so provided. No Networks? No Nielsen, because there would be no one to PAY Nielsen for their efforts.

As a consequence, Nielsen will do whatever it can to stonewall, obfuscate, and generally hide the obvious: the day of Network hegemony is coming to a close.

This doesn't mean the Networks are going to disappear. What it does mean is that the Network business model of delivering motion picture, and the techniques, methods, aesthetics, and processes developed to support that system, is no longer the complete hegemonic force it used to be. In 1948 there was radio and TV and movies and... ummmm... not much else. Today there is broadcast TV, Cable TV, online video, radio, satellite radio, computer games, game consoles, Web2.0 social networks and similar systems (viz 2nd life), podcasts, etc. etc. etc.

The last actual advertisement I paid attention to AT ALL was last week (well, actually this morning - the girl on the billboard was f*cking hott. don't know what she was selling, but damn she was cute...) when I actually clicked on an advert to find out more about a certain brand of eReader (no, not the kindle...) So, that particular advert was successful, and it was online. Not on TV.

That's the mindshare competition TV is dealing with, and what Nielsen refuses to deal with. TV could actually GROW in size, and still be increasingly marginalised by the explosion of all the other media.

RS

Re:This comes as no surprise. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#29190759)

don't know what she was selling, but damn she was cute...

Really effective, wasn't it? I've noticed a lot of commercials like that, you remember the commercial but not the product. Good ads are like the Budweiser frog commercials, or about any Geico commercial. You remember the product.

Others are even worse than your not remembering the product; the commercials are so bad you remember the commercial, the product, and studiously avoid actually buying the product because the ad pissed you off.

Nielson isn't needed for print media, since the publisher knows what the circulation is, but the company advertising bases his ad buys on whether or not sales increase.

Re:This comes as no surprise. (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#29190907)

mcGrew wrote:

Others are even worse than your not remembering the product; the commercials are so bad you remember the commercial, the product, and studiously avoid actually buying the product because the ad pissed you off.

No shit. When I was living in the States, I refused to eat at Carl's Junior because the commercials were so disgusting. It was usually some macho douchebag chowing down on a burger in slow motion making hideous slurping sounds and bits of it dripping on his shirt, and the announcer coming off like that's cool... or something... eeeew. gross.

Pissed me off so bad, I refused to eat there.

RS

Hulu is more accurate (3, Informative)

cashman73 (855518) | about 5 years ago | (#29190449)

I don't subscribe to cable, and don't really watch "over-the-air" TV, mostly because I don't really feel like fiddling with the antennae. I do watch lots of shows on Hulu [hulu.com] , which is great from the network standpoint, because all they have to do is check website server logs and javascript reports to find out how many times someone is watching their show. The best part about it, is that they get an exact number of who's accessed the file, so there's no "sampling" of the population going on. Plus, they can sell ads based on an exact number. This is probably exactly why Hulu is so valuable to NBC and Fox (and now ABC).

Re:Hulu is more accurate (1)

space_jake (687452) | about 5 years ago | (#29190623)

Not a diverse demographic. It isn't going to pick up what people without broadband (or computers) are watching.

Re:Hulu is more accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190803)

Furthermore, as the US suffers the roll out of throttling and capped throughput, or much dearer service charges, TV streaming will start to suffer. Exactly what the content providers want. We must all get back on the couch and watch what they tell us to and when.

Re:Hulu is more accurate (1)

cashman73 (855518) | about 5 years ago | (#29191141)

This is 2009, dammit! Why do the media companies keep wanting us to go back to 1984?!?!

My Pet Peeve (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 years ago | (#29190491)

I am using an old Panasonic hard disk based DVR. It used to get the listings from TVGOS service and it was great. It needed no monthly subscriptions. The DVD recorder broke down and I find that there is no newer model! There is currently no DVR that requires no monthly fees that has at least some rudimentary capability to acquire the listings.

Why isn't Panasonic introducing the next gen DVR? Is it possible to use TiVO without a monthly fee? Is it possible to edit clips in a TiVO and burn it off to a DVD?

Re:My Pet Peeve (1)

athakur999 (44340) | about 5 years ago | (#29190613)

A Tivo without a subscription operates like old VCRs do. You can schedule recordings based on channel/time/duration. With a subscription, you can do it based on the name of the show instead.

Re:My Pet Peeve (1)

ericrost (1049312) | about 5 years ago | (#29190819)

mythtv. $20 a year for the listings from datadirect. Problem solved.

Re:My Pet Peeve (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190861)

Actually, Dish Network of all people makes a dual tuner HD DVR that requires no subscription. you possibly purchase it at sears http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_05757709000P?keyword=dtvpal

Of course it's all bullshit (1)

taustin (171655) | about 5 years ago | (#29190503)

Neither the networks (cable of otherwise) nor Neilson have any interest in accurate reporting. Accurate reporting would show that more and more people are using their DVRs to fast forward through pretty much all the commercials. And make no mistake, ratings are entirely and only about ratings, or, rather, the advertising rates that are based on ratings. Nothing else matters in the least. The day advertising rates are based on something else, we will never see another ratings list again.

And everyone, even the advertisers, but especially the networks and the people who make commercials, are terrified of this. They can't make commercials are aren't just annoying, it's beyond them. And people simply will not watch annoying commercials any more. On the very rare occasions I watch live TV, and it's no more than once or twice a week, I routinely (without even thinking about it) must the sound during commercials, because I refuse to let my own television scream at me that some retarded comapny wants retards to buy their retarded products (and that seems to be, literally, the gist of most of it - "OUR PRODUCTS ARE FOR STUPID PEOPLE - BUY OUR PRODUCTS OR YOU WILL DIE!").

Eventually, the truth will come out, and either televisionland will learn to make commercials that aren't offensive, or the entire advertising based business model will die. I expect the latter, given how stupid Hollywood is.

Well, if Fox uses them (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | about 5 years ago | (#29190571)

If Fox uses them to determine what shows to keep, either they are flawed, or the general population is retarded. Oh. Wait.

Perhaps executives should troll popular websites and such to see what the viewers themselves have to say instead?

Re:Well, if Fox uses them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190843)

ima taken offense to that statemant all my children are retarded.
I like fox my children call it the babysitter while im off selling pain meds on the corner.
Hopefully soon my wife will get paroled and we can afford to have a babysitter in each room of the house.

If Fox uses them to determine what shows to keep, either they are flawed, or the general population is retarded. Oh. Wait.

Perhaps executives should troll popular websites and such to see what the viewers themselves have to say instead?

Re:Well, if Fox uses them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190921)

I would love to see executives troll shitty popular websites like twitter and myspace and whatnot, but the word you are looking for is "trawl".

This will be fixed soon enough (1)

C_Kode (102755) | about 5 years ago | (#29190593)

Most over-the-air television will be a think of the past. The external receivers / and servers for online viewing will measure this and Nielsen will be out of a job.

And how does this effect me? (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 5 years ago | (#29190619)

So...tv networks decide on their own what to show and no show. This effects me how, exactly? They'll still kill intelligent shows in favor of the window-licker specials, so why do I care?

Who watches live TV anymore? (1)

dafz1 (604262) | about 5 years ago | (#29190621)

VERY rarely do I watch live TV. Mostly, I TiVO everything, and fast forward through the commercials(I know advertisers don't want to hear that). I'm guessing I'm not alone and, contrary to Nielsen's thinking, we probably represent a statistically significant group.

Re:Who watches live TV anymore? (1)

rtaylor (70602) | about 5 years ago | (#29190915)

... and fast forward through the commercials ... we probably represent a statistically significant group.

Which means Neilson SHOULD be ignoring you. Ratings for eyeballs watching commercials. Popularity of a show doesn't really mean anything to the advertisers (buyers of the numbers); it's the number of eyes on the advertisements that Neilson measures.

Neilsons is strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190669)

When my neighbors, a proud Neilsons household (I hated the idea, personally), got a second TiVo that enabled him to share recordings not only on his time but between spaces, they removed his neilson's box and said they weren't able to compute a second DVR in the house. Personally, I don't like being monitored like that.

Lagging Behind the OS Curve (0, Troll)

stuffduff (681819) | about 5 years ago | (#29190695)

Nielsen has software to participate in their web rating service which though all in java has never been ported to Linux. After a decade of explaining that I also use Linux and not being able to get any action on that front I gave up. If you really want to be a player in the ratings business you need to be where the people are who you want to follow, not changing your sample source to keep the relative value of your investment intact at the expense of being able to follow your demographic. Nielsen wake up! It's no longer the 1950's!

Meters can count PVRs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190697)

I'm in Canada and have been wearing a Neilson (BBM Neilson) meter. It clips to my belt or fits in a pocket and has a microphone and can pick up in-audible signals embedded by broadcasters into the audio track. I believe that when I watch a recorded show it should record this fact. I don't know the resolution of the audio signal, i.e. does it send one signal repeatedly for the duration of the show, or does it encode the point in time within the show as well as the commercial time. I suspect it does simply the former.

They even provide an acoustic coupler for headphones (i.e. it inserts inline in the headphone cable path and then acoustically couples to the meter). which could then, in theory, track other media, such as podcasts (I listen to the CBC Radio 1 shows on radio as well as via podcast) but I don't bother because it is too cumbersome.

Anyway, while they might choose to weight recorded shows due to the increased ability to skip commercials, they shouldn't weight them due to under-reporting within this system.

Two things (1)

EkriirkE (1075937) | about 5 years ago | (#29190733)

With digital (cable) TV here, the cable cos know what you are watching and how long.

As a former TV repair tech, I've seen how Nielsen rigs sets to track users; It's not just a set-top box that tracks your channel, but is WAY more intrusive than that.
Speaking of CRT TVs, they cut holes in the TV cabinet with leads from that box; these leads were wired to the V sync of the TV (don't know why, maybe verify the TV is on?) and the speakers (presumably to monitor volume and muting habits) and other places I can't remember....
I have not seen a more modern flat panel wigged with a Nielsen box yet...

We were a Nielsen family. (5, Interesting)

methano (519830) | about 5 years ago | (#29190741)

We were a Nielsen family for a couple of years, up until about March. The amount of equipment that they attached to the TV and all the associated devices was staggering. We also had a TV in the bedroom that contained a DVD player. They took the TV apart and put lots of wires inside and a box on the outside. Some how they amanged to break a VCR during the installation, which they replaced. Both TVs in the house had a complete PC attached and ran a separate wireless network as well as connecting to the house phone lines. There were zillions of wires and lots of little boxes behind the TV. If the whole gamisch didn't call in daily to report on us for a day or two, the technician would schedule a visit and pound on his PC for an hour or so and then leave, satisfied that he's done something. Last March, during the Final Four, our old 1994 27" Sony Trinitron died and when I went shopping for a new TV, I decided that it was time for Nielsen to go. It was an interesting experience but I was very unimpressed with the complexity of their equipment. Now I know what a modern Rube Goldberg device looks like.

extinction (2, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | about 5 years ago | (#29190749)

Seems to me that Nielsen's metrics are just about useless these days.

How many people actively watch television without a DVR? Wouldn't it be fairly easy for those DVRs to simply report back what shows you're watching? Yeah, I know, privacy and all that... But your average person is just renting it from their cable/dish provider and doesn't have much say in what the box does anyway.

And folks watching television programs through on-line services like hulu or whatever can easily be tracked as well. Just record the number of views a given show's gotten - much like the counters on YouTube.

Hell, even folks who don't use a DVR typically have some kind of cable/dish de-scrambler box... Those could report viewing habits as well.

I certainly understand the appeal of having an impartial party responsible for the data... But it doesn't seem like this kind of data collection should be terribly difficult to do these days. Seems like the bigger challenge would be for viewers who don't want to participate to keep their usage private.

Re:extinction (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 5 years ago | (#29191129)

How many people actively watch television without a DVR? Wouldn't it be fairly easy for those DVRs to simply report back what shows you're watching?

Sure, but those guys aren't sharing the data with Neilsen. They probably don't want to share it with anyone or the popular channels will start claiming they need to get paid more for allowing their stuff to be carried by Cable/Sat companies.

Just do what we did.. (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | about 5 years ago | (#29190781)

They wanted to install the box in our house so we let them, Put it on a TV we were about to replace with a nice plasma, stuck the TV in the office to play porn 24/7 on directTV.

Hooray for boobies!!!

Why is Nielsen relevant? (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | about 5 years ago | (#29190791)

In this day of digital broadcasting, why is Nielsen even relevant anymore? Can't cable companies track who is watching/DVR'ing what nowadays? Maybe not with over-the-air or satellite TV, but wouldn't the cable-only subscribers be a large enough sample to get a good idea of what people like on TV?

Tracking viewing habits is easy! (1)

donut1005 (982510) | about 5 years ago | (#29190801)

One column is the Seed and one is the Leech.

First questions on Neilsen Questionaire (4, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 5 years ago | (#29190831)

1. Do you like Science Fiction Stories? (Y/N)
(Note to test processor, if the answer to question 1 is Y then discard survey immediately)

2. Do you like Matlock and/or HeeHaw? (Y/N)
(Note to test processor, if the answer to question 2 is N then discard survey immediately)

Re:First questions on Neilsen Questionaire (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 5 years ago | (#29191113)

HeeHaw is not science fiction? They all look like aliens to me.

Nielsen Ratings Aren't Accurate Anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190835)

Just look at Family Guy. The show's ratings eventually dwindled (according to Nielsen) and the show was eventually canceled. (I realize other factors may have been involved). Then the show comes out on DVD and does extremely well, and the show goes back on air.

MythTV (1)

ottawaguy (1196329) | about 5 years ago | (#29190839)

For a few bucks a month in cash, or maybe even free SchedulesDirect service, I would happily install a plug-in to MythTV that would tell the ratings people what I've been watching.

The best answer is probably low-tech (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 years ago | (#29190891)

SURVEYS. Seriously, there would be very few reasons to lie about what you are watching but screening the survey participants can serve to limit that anyway. "When do you watch entertainment video? What were you watching during this time slot? What about the next?" The results should pay the same whether or not they even watched TV or other video entertainment at all leaving less incentive to be "inventive." So if I downloaded an episode of Weeds from The Pirate Bay and watched it this morning, that would count as a viewer of that show. If I watched it again, it should count again. I'm sure they'll figure out the details better than I would, but the bottom line is that technology to track viewership when the options are too many to track, one would simply need to revert to more primitive methods of collecting information. Ask people!

foxes and hens (1)

Jodka (520060) | about 5 years ago | (#29190931)

from slashdot summary

A new consortium including networks owned by NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, Viacom, CBS, Discovery, and Walt Disney â" along with major advertisers â" is calling for the creation of a new audience measurement service, and planning to solicit bids from outside firms by the fourth quarter of this year.

from Deadline Hollywood Daily

This sounds a lot like putting the foxes in charge of the hen house starting in September. The very idea that NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp/Fox, Viacom/MTV, CBS, Disney/ABC and Discovery are forming a consortium to challenge the dominant force in TV audience measurement gives rise to all sorts of scenarios.

The first quote is excerpted from the slashdot summary and lists the parties participating in the consortium. The second quote is excerpted from an editorial at something called Deadline Hollywood Daily and is used to support an allegation that network executives will conspire to deliberately manipulate ratings. Note that the portrayal within the opinion piece omits two crucial facts: 1) The consortium includes advertisers. Advertisers presumably have a financial stake in receiving accurate,not inaccurate ratings 2) The Network consortium does not propose that network executives would rate programs, as the editorial piece portrays it, but that ratings would be determined by "outside firms"

It appears that this "Deadline Hollywood Daily" outfit supports its editorial position by omitting some facts and inventing others.

FOX News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29190971)

I still have a hard time believing the numbers for FOX News... they routinely have as the same as MSNBC , CNN and the others combined (from tvbythenumbers.com). The only rationalization I ahve heard is that a lot of Fox views watch ALL DAY so it somehow skews....

Nielsen, struggling? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 5 years ago | (#29191049)

Shouldn't he be doing Naked Gun 4.0 instead of that tracking thing?

From the inside... (5, Informative)

goobenet (756437) | about 5 years ago | (#29191091)

I used to work for Nielsen as a field rep. The way they gather the data is solid, but they have some serious issues with quality control. Meaning too much QC. If the power goes out in one section of the home, and the box is reset, the whole days viewing data is thrown out for the WHOLE household. They should just throw out that one viewing site. As for DVRs, the article fails to mention that Nielsen already accounts for DVRs, quite well I might add. It's live+7 days. Meaning that if you recorded tuesdays american idol, and didn't watch it til sunday, it still counts for tuesdays viewing data. How it deals with the nightly numbers was a bit above my pay grade, but i think the DVR equipment tracked the SID codes while it was recording.

Biggest problem Nielsen really has is internet usage. They just (like 3 years ago) started tracking internet sites with their A2M2 program. The sample is very very small, about 1/5th the size of a TV sample. And a lot of the households are former TV sample homes. (they offer them the I2 program as the home comes out of the LPM sample) They also now are able to track distance family members, like kids at college are counted now away from home, but count as part of the household. (figure that one out if the parents live in Minneapolis, and the kid goes to school in LA?)

As for people wondering why Nielsen is a viable company in this digital age? Simple demographics. Nielsen has every household members income, job title, where they work, shopping habits, age, etc. The cable company can find out what a person is watching through an STB, but doesn't have ANY of the demographics of the household. Nielsen using LPM systems can tell you EXACTLY who was watching what at a specific time, including the persons age, wine buying habits, primary shopper in the home or not, and what kind of car(year, make, model) they drive. (yes, these were the questions i had to ask households every 3 months) Obscene target audiences. Even with the old NSI sample, Nielsen had more data than the cable companies. (NSI is total household data, LPM is persons data)

For those really wondering, Nielsen does track homes that pirate satellite/cable. They just don't show that number anywhere. :)
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