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The Nielsen Family Is Dead

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the radio-star's-family-suspected-in-revenge-plot dept.

Television 170

An anonymous reader writes "An article at Wired walks us through how the so-called Nielsen Family, responsible for deciding which shows were good and which were flops since the '70s, isn't the be-all, end-all of TV popularity anymore. Quoting: 'Over the years, the Nielsen rating has been tweaked, but it still serves one fundamental purpose: to gauge how many people are watching a given show on a conventional television set. But that's not how we watch any more. Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Roku, iTunes, smartphone, tablet—none of these platforms or devices are reflected in the Nielsen rating. (In February Nielsen announced that this fall it would finally begin including Internet streaming to TV sets in its ratings.) And the TV experience doesn't stop when the episode ends. We watch with tablets on our laps so we can look up an actor's IMDb page. We tweet about the latest plot twist (discreetly, to avoid spoilers). We fill up the comments section of our favorite online recappers. We kibitz with Facebook friends about Hannah Horvath's latest paramour. We start Tumblrs devoted to Downton decor. We're engaging with a show even if we aren't watching it, but none of this behavior factors into Nielsen's calculation of its impact.'"

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Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221231)

I look at the pirate sites to see what's popular on TV. That's a truer reflection of what the general public wants to watch, because the seed and leech count isn't some complex proprietary formula. While fakes do pop up, with companies trying to poison the peer population to discourage downloading, the protocol is self-correcting and it is really just further evidence of its popularity. It represents an intentional and willful effort to watch these shows, not just a casual interest because it feels less lonely than leaving the TV on to blare commercials while you do something else. If you want to know which shows are popular, not just locally, but internationally then torrent sites are really the best measure of a show's actual popularity. And it's not limited to TV either; A movie's true popularity is also reflected in the download count, moreso than an imdb rating.

You can't trust for-profit organizations to give fair an unbiased numbers -- for enough money, they're only too happy to rig the system. There's companies whose sole reason for existance is to push books onto the New York Times' best seller lists. Because sales data and other information is all kept hidden behind a wall of corporate proprietary data, it's possible to rig the system.

The pirates... you can't rig the system. Either it's popular, or it isn't. No games, no bullshit.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221253)

You can rig it. There's little to stop you from downloading something many times.

It'll be interesting if Hollywood does it ;). But for now the counts are probably a fair reflection of a movie's popularity.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (4, Informative)

Aaron B Lingwood (1288412) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221335)

You can rig it. There's little to stop you from downloading something many times.

BitTorrent Trackers don't count downloads - they count the number of active seeders and leechers.

While you are connected to the tracker and downloading a file, your session will add 1 to the leech count. When the download completes, the leech count is decremented 1. If you delete/move this file and initiate another download, this will simply temporarily add 1 to the leech count again.

Sure it is game-able. You could have multiple clients on different ports simultaneously downloading and hope that the tracker doesn't amalgamate all connections from the same IP to count as one. This, however, would be very taxing on your connection not to mention extremely resource intensive, especially with the wide adoption of crypto in BitTorrent.

Even if this was actively rigged, would it be any worse off than the Nielsen system? Can we honestly believe that it is not completely rigged? The participants are known ahead of time. Is it not possible that they be chosen according a particular agenda or otherwise enticed.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221389)

OP said: "A movie's true popularity is also reflected in the download count". Go figure which download that means.

As for gaming the leech count it's not going to be as resource intensive if you don't actually download stuff at a high rate.

I'm not even sure if the various tracking protocols require you to actually download stuff. Or check that the peers you advertise actually exist.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

Aaron B Lingwood (1288412) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221461)

OP said: "A movie's true popularity is also reflected in the download count". Go figure which download that means.

OP also talked about the "seed and leech count" and "pirate sites" which points to BitTorrent.

As for gaming the leech count it's not going to be as resource intensive if you don't actually download stuff at a high rate. I'm not even sure if the various tracking protocols require you to actually download stuff. Or check that the peers you advertise actually exist.

Good point. I guess one could connect to the tracker and announce that they are seeding/leeching and simply drop all incoming connections. This is highly probable, though the multitude of leechers coming from the same IP / IP range is sure to tip of the tracker maintainers and BitTorrent community quite promptly. The community will likely respond with a patch to count only 1 connection per IP and to disregard counts for inactive downloads/uploads. As OP said:

the protocol is self-correcting and it is really just further evidence of its popularity.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221637)

counting 1 connection per IP could potentially be inaccurate in situations such as a university. The better bet would be to closer to binding per mac address which doesnt account for multiple nic's. That being said the power consumption to run enough computers with multi nics would add up fast which means they would end up turning to bot nets the same way spam did.

As for inactive downloads and uploads. I cant imagine rigging it so that they are throttled to a minuscule amount. Back before speeds where any decent in my area I would cap BT downloads/uploads to half my speed to allow other activities.

The best bet would honestly be to use Torrents or what ever comes next as one metric among many. Think of it like a spam filter. If you trust one source to tell you if something is good or bad you are bound to end up with a lot of spam or a lot of missed emails. If you weigh multiple sources in together you are more likely to catch a higher percent of spam without as high of a false positive rate.

A proper system would take cable into account still as one point, Then you would want to look at data for legal streaming services. Then Check out report rates for illegal streaming of content. Next you would throw in downloads/purchases such as on amazon, itunes, etc. Then calculate in BT downloads and such.

Lastly comparing each of those individual metric to see where the majority of the viewers watch and you can do targeted ads as well as provide legitimate ways that people can access the content while allowing content owners to convert freeloaders to financial contributors hopefully preventing the higher quality shows from being canceled due to the low brow taste the average american viewer.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221759)

Good point. I guess one could connect to the tracker and announce that they are seeding/leeching and simply drop all incoming connections. This is highly probable, though the multitude of leechers coming from the same IP / IP range is sure to tip of the tracker maintainers and BitTorrent community quite promptly. The community will likely respond with a patch to count only 1 connection per IP and to disregard counts for inactive downloads/uploads.

Actually, just such a patch has been built into all mainstream bittorrent clients for years. Clients will only accept 1 connection at a time from a given IP address. And if the data provided is incorrect, after a certain number of bad chunks (defined in the client options, but typically around 3-5), it will be banned.

That said, some trolls did try to interfere with the downloading DVD screener copies this past year right around the time the Emmy's were being voted on by registering thousands of fake peers with the trackers, in a sort of DDoS. The reasoning is believed to be that if they could lower the effective download rate or otherwise make it take a long time to download the torrent, people would give up. Unfortunately for them, their cunning plan failed to consider that computers do not "give up"; After a few hours, all of their fake peers had been attempted (and banned by each other participating client), so while the length of time did increase for the torrent, it was not by an appreciable amount -- it doesn't take long to send 68 byte packets to a few thousand, or even ten thousand, unique IP addresses, and you don't need to get more than a handful of non-fakes to get your download up to full speed.

The other, more successful, method was to seed fake torrents with similar names and filesizes to the legitimate ones, thus forcing people to waste large amounts of bandwidth to get rick-rolled (proverbially speaking). The files would be corrupt, have severely distorted video and/or audio, or simply be a "Shame on you" advert repeated over and over. Very shortly after this, all the major torrent sites introduced the notion of "verified" torrents, and allowed anyone to rank a torrent, or otherwise flag it as crap. The practice has since stopped for the same reason spam e-mail usually doesn't make it through: A web of trust is a simple, yet powerful way, to sort the chaffe from the wheat.

So while there are ways to attack the bittorrent protocol, they are expensive and only result in a small loss of time and effort. For this reason, these attacks aren't common anymore, though less-technically minded groups (I'm looking at you, form-letter enforcement companies) perenially make the attempt thinking nobody's ever done it before. :)

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222057)

Astonishing! I'm learning a few new things from you today on slashdot! Is this the beginning of the return of the slashdot of yesterday? Thanks for the micro-lesson on torrents and tpb.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222295)

what would you expect - look at the situation here:

what we have is a a 'geeks' website (slashdot) made up mostly of apple fans, discussing an article that appeared in a print magazine (wired...lol) that has high-technology as it's subject matter!!!!!

don't tell me, html6 is the next big thing!!!!!!!

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221883)

And what would you bet that a Nielsen family 'just happens' to develop more sophisticated tastes now that someone is watching...

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222301)

And what would you bet that a Nielsen family 'just happens' to develop more sophisticated tastes now that someone is watching...

Neilsen attempted to use me as a "Nielsen family" once. I watch TV maybe once a week, don't have cable, am more likely to view a DVD than a broadcast program, and get most of my radio off the Internet.

You REALLY don't want my opinions shaping what shows get killed.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (3, Insightful)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221281)

I look at the pirate sites to see what's popular on TV. That's a truer reflection of what the general public wants to watch, because the seed and leech count isn't some complex proprietary formula.

The demographic that gets/views torrents is skewed towards the technologically minded. Contrary to the prevailing slashdot wisdom, this site is not 'the general public'. Sure, the actual general public is closer to the slashdot demo than, say, 15 years ago, but they are not identical.

The problem with pirate sites is monetization. Let's suppose that the number of downloads of Game of Thrones from The Pirate Bay is the most accurate assessment of its popularity. Further, let's posit that 90% of the views come from that. Why does it matter to HBO? How do they recoup the development costs from a TPB viewer? And it matters not whether it is HBO, A&E, or NBC. Someone has to pay actors, writers, directors, etc. Until there is a better method of determining paying customers/viewers, there is still some relevance to traditional ratings. How much and to what degree, we can argue (well, you can. I'm not interested in those minutiae).

So yes, the viewership through pirate sites is interesting for help in determining popularity, but not necessarily in determining what gets made. The reign of 'non-scripted' shows as an example, is as much due to decreased costs of production (especially avoiding the WGA and DGA) at least as much, if not more than how popular they are.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

Aaron B Lingwood (1288412) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221369)

The problem with pirate sites is monetization. Let's suppose that the number of downloads of Game of Thrones from The Pirate Bay is the most accurate assessment of its popularity. Further, let's posit that 90% of the views come from that. Why does it matter to HBO? How do they recoup the development costs from a TPB viewer?

HBO now have strong evidence supporting the immense popularity of the show. This allows them to sell broadcasting rights, merchandising rights and gives them an enormous amount of free publicity in new and emerging markets.

Sure 'Castle' has a much higher Nielsen rating but how many people would seriously buy a $50 Castle poster to hang on their wall or buy a Collectors Edition Richard Castle figurine.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221587)

The only evidence they have is that the show is popular with a demographic that isn't making them any money.
If anything, it's reason to terminate the show and replace it with something that attracts non-downloading viewers.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (-1, Troll)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221819)

Oh, but in the grand 'logic' of 'girlintraining', quality content will magically appear on TPB merely because it is popular.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221751)

If he was wearing a brown coat I'm sure there would be plenty of people who'd snap it up

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221477)

The demographic that gets/views torrents is skewed towards the technologically minded.

Then explain to me the popularity of Jersey Shore on the Pirate Bay.

Contrary to the prevailing slashdot wisdom, this site is not 'the general public'.

I'm sorry, you make me choke on my mountain dew. Slashdot? Wisdom? I think you have this site confused for another. And besides, we weren't talking about slashdot, we were talking about The Pirate Bay, which is the 73rd most visited site on the internet according to Alexia. But please, continue...

The problem with pirate sites is monetization.

Okay, just so we're clear: You're saying a website whose primary purpose is to allow the free distribution of copyrighted materials has a problem with monetization?

Let's suppose that the number of downloads of Game of Thrones from The Pirate Bay is the most accurate assessment of its popularity. Further, let's posit that 90% of the views come from that. Why does it matter to HBO?

I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about accurately assessing the popularity of a show, which is what Nielsen ratings are supposed to do. I wasn't aware that this had anything to do with the price of tea in China... or the price of an HBO subscription for that matter.

Someone has to pay actors, writers, directors, etc.

Again, and that has what to do with the price of tea in China? We're looking at methods of assessing the popularity of a show, and the pros and cons of each method. Who writes the paycheck out to those people has exactly dick to do with that.

Until there is a better method of determining paying customers/viewers, there is still some relevance to traditional ratings.

Ah. So you're moving the goal posts. Well, allow me to move them back. Let's say you're in the market for a new car. New car by definition means you're going to be buying from a dealer, or from the manufacturer. So the market for used cars is therefore totally irrelevant, right? Wrong. Even though you're going to a different seller, the laws of supply and demand apply equally to both, and the reasons people buy a used car are similar to the reasons they buy a new car. So if a car has a strong value on the used car market, it's going to have an impact on the price, and popularity, of the new car market as well. Whether the customers are paying or not may matter to the producers of the show, but it has little or no impact on whether or not the viewing public wants to watch the show. And I'm willing to bet that if 10% of Game of Thrones is pirated, then about 10% of NCIS is going to be pirated too, even though they're different shows. And if NCIS is more popular than Game of Thrones amongst the non-paying customers, it's probably going to be more popular amongst the paying customers as well because they're the same demographic.

So yes, the viewership through pirate sites is interesting for help in determining popularity, but not necessarily in determining what gets made.

Whoa there cowboy. Again: China. Tea. Price of. We aren't discussing the criterion for how TV shows get selected for production, we're discussing the pros and cons of a ratings system for shows that are already in production.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221613)

The problem with pirate sites is monetization.

Okay, just so we're clear: You're saying a website whose primary purpose is to allow the free distribution of copyrighted materials has a problem with monetization?

Torrent tracker sites have to pay for bandwidth and server space or is that also free?

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (4, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221617)

The demographic that gets/views torrents is skewed towards the technologically minded.

Then explain to me the popularity of Jersey Shore on the Pirate Bay.

Most popular Jersey Shore episode on TPB: s06e13 with 104 seeds and 4 leeches.
Most popular Big Bang Theory: s06e19 with 19202 seeds and 538 leeches.
There... "popularity" of Jersey Shore on TPB explained.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221715)

There... "popularity" of Jersey Shore on TPB explained.

Last airing of Jersey Shore: December 7, 2012
Last airing of Big Bang: Today.

I think I see a flaw in your cunning assessment. If you look for a single episode of Big Bang uploaded on or before the same date, you get about the same count: 128 seeds, 2 leeches, respectively. When Jersey Shore isn't on its off-season, those numbers will be a lot higher. But I can't fault you for not knowing that torrents of TV shows tend to be most popular when first released, and then quickly drop in both seed and leech count... I mean, it's not something the average person would know.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222887)

I am technically minded and would rather watch Jersey Shore than The Big Bang Theory.

Jersey Shore is like an animal planet show about another species. The people on it are so different from everyone I know. The Big Bang Theory is a show about nerds, written by people who must have never spent time around nerds.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43223123)

OK, now explain to me the popularity of the Big Bang Theory?

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (2)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about a year and a half ago | (#43223341)

I dont care for ether of them, but my wife and daughter love them both. Nether of them is "Technical" but both of them are capable of and do download the torrents for those shows as well as a show that I think is called "Once upon a time" but I could be wrong on the name.

I however am technical, and I throttle there torrent connections so I can get AMC's Walking Dead faster. :P

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221809)

You know, I had typed out a thoughtful reply, then I remembered 'swine', 'pearls', etc.

Good job missing the forest for the trees.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43223031)

Isn't that cute? girlintraining has her own 5-digit troll!

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43223065)

You may stop now. I can't decide if you and mwvdlee are the same person, or if you're both just fond of being obtuse (deliberately, I would hope)

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221931)

The demographic that gets/views torrents is skewed towards the technologically minded.

Then explain to me the popularity of Jersey Shore on the Pirate Bay.

The bias is not towards technologically minded people (what is this 1998?), it's towards people who use the Internet, i.e., everyone under 30. The Boomers are not likely to download torrents because they grew up with TV sets and, by and large, aren't very tech savvy. They might get DVDs of Mad Men through Netflix, but that's about it. Someone born in 1994 grew up with the Internet and is much more likely to be sitting in a dorm room downloading TV shows. (And we all know that young people have terrible taste in TV, movies, and especially music and have no respect for front lawns.)

As a technologically minded, but not-so-young-anymore consumer of media, I've notice that "online ratings" frequently give low scores to shows/movies about raising kids, getting old, dealing with mid-life issues, etc., but love crap like Pokeymon and the Jersey Shore. I'm always fascinated by the critic/audience split on Rotten Tomatoes for that reason; who actually rates stuff on Rotten Tomatoes? No one that remembers the Sixties, I bet. I haven't quantified it or anything, I just know that something that is popular on Reddit is bound to make me feel old.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222591)

Contrary to the prevailing slashdot wisdom, this site is not 'the general public'. Sure, the actual general public is closer to the slashdot demo than, say, 15 years ago, but they are not identical.

Indeed, the general public is far more female.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

skine (1524819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221311)

Of course, the moment that the industry decides that it is useful, it will cease to be useful.

Hulu might make a bit of sense to use, since it's people actively seeking and watching content. The biggest issue I see would be availability.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221347)

Nielsen has one and only purpose - to help price ad-time buys. Shows on bittorrent have had the ads stripped out. The people watching those versions might as well not exist for all that Nielsen's customers care.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221409)

In that vein, Hulu is worth tracking, but presumably Hulu has a record of how many views its videos get and probably direct or inferred audience demographic data - 'sign in with Facebook'.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (3, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221525)

Yes, pretty much every 'legit' method of viewing a show on the internet has the ability to be way more accurate than the current method of nielsen ratings because they can count every single viewing by their entire customer base rather than sampling and/or relying on the honesty (and mental accuity) of nielsen families.

But piracy? They don't care. Frankly, I see that as a benefit of being a pirate, less surveilllence. On the other hand, it isn't scalable given the current model of commercial-funding. If it switches from ad-time buys to product-placement, then piracy stats will become meaningful (and shows will become very bland, no big money client is going to want to be associated with a show that might piss even a sliver of their customer base). If we go to something better, a la the ransom model, then it won't really matter all that much.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (3, Informative)

mooingyak (720677) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222823)

If it switches from ad-time buys to product-placement

Product placement can't always fill the needs of an advertiser. It works well for food, clothing, and cars among others. It's much less simple for things like insurance, otc drugs, or other TV shows. It makes syndication less attractive. And it's *terrible* for localization. There are plenty of smaller businesses that can afford local media buys but have neither the budget nor the desire for a national one. But with product placement, that's difficult at best.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222389)

They should care about them because they are potential customers. Sure, some will never pay, but some would if the same media was available for a reasonable price. No ads, no DRM, just a high quality MKV for say 50 cents (Euro/US).

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221391)

do you really think torrenters are a representative sample of the general population ?

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221563)

So basically any TV show that doesn't target the 20-40yo white nerd male demographic isn't popular?

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

vulcan1701 (1245624) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222393)

Nielsen is a sampling from the United States so using BT doesn't meet their criteria since it is global.

That in itself shows that Nielsen should fizzle out.

http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/videostar [albinoblacksheep.com] ..Flash Version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiB0VgOKojg [youtube.com] ..YouTube

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (2)

nblender (741424) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222459)

Pirate sites show you what's popular on TV with the average user who is knowledgeable enough to know how to pirate TV shows; or their girlfriends/wives. It doesn't tell you what the general public wants to watch. None of my son's grandparents/aunts/uncles would fall into that category. My plumber wouldn't; my finish carpenter wouldn't, my drywaller doesn't even have e-mail, my friend the lawyer is also right-out, my doctor is not represented... Many people are not represented in your statistics... On the upside, Firefly would probably not have been cancelled.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

happy_place (632005) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222531)

The data on pirate sites tends to reflect a target demographic that pirates movies, which may be ineffective if you're attempting to sell ads.

Also, some shows don't show up on Hulu, or netflix... so many networks have their own websites, like cbs shows are on their own network website cbs.com, which Hulu will point to, but really is not a reflection of the viewership. Hulu really gets nothing for pointing to their site, other than an indication that people are searching for the show. Some Shows have sites dedicated to their shows too... And that's if you can find it. And YouTube performs the same sort of service... or amazon, and then that doesn't count cable and digital broadcasting... but is there something that puts all this information together?

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222579)

Except just like all statistical models, it is not the entire population.
And in fact, we know it is just one particular part of it. Yes it is a far bigger sample size, but who is to say that tech savvy pirates are at all a good indicator of what everyone else is watching.

Re:Nielsen ratings Pirate Bay ratings (3, Insightful)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222585)

I look at the pirate sites to see what's popular on TV. That's a truer reflection of what the general public wants to watch, because the seed and leech count isn't some complex proprietary formula. While fakes do pop up, with companies trying to poison the peer population to discourage downloading, the protocol is self-correcting and it is really just further evidence of its popularity. It represents an intentional and willful effort to watch these shows, not just a casual interest because it feels less lonely than leaving the TV on to blare commercials while you do something else. If you want to know which shows are popular, not just locally, but internationally then torrent sites are really the best measure of a show's actual popularity. And it's not limited to TV either; A movie's true popularity is also reflected in the download count, moreso than an imdb rating.

You can't trust for-profit organizations to give fair an unbiased numbers -- for enough money, they're only too happy to rig the system. There's companies whose sole reason for existance is to push books onto the New York Times' best seller lists. Because sales data and other information is all kept hidden behind a wall of corporate proprietary data, it's possible to rig the system.

The pirates... you can't rig the system. Either it's popular, or it isn't. No games, no bullshit.

You're making the assumption that torrents are downloaded by a representative sample of the global audience. It's not, it's skewed towards "geeks"

However neilson doesn't care about how many people watch a given tv show, they care about how many watch the adverts.

Like it or not, American idol and the like attract a large number of viewers. These people watch it live as braindead tv, and therefore watch adverts.

People time shifting, which I'd guess is how most people watch quality tv, will skip the adverts. People downloading never even see the adverts.

This is a problem for networks that rely on advertising

I've been a part of it (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221241)

Off an on for years, single parents I guess is a demographic they care about but they make it VERY clear that it is NOT just OTA TV anymore. if you are playing games, watching YouTube, whatever? They want you to fill that in. I even told them last time they asked me "You DO know I don't even watch OTA TV anymore? that everything I enjoy is online?" and they said "That's fine, just write down at the bottom of the page what you were doing instead of OTA TV" and I guess it made them happy as I was asked to do it again about 6 months ago.

Re:I've been a part of it (3, Informative)

Technician (215283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222105)

Neilson has stagnated along with Buggy Whip manufactures. Most of the posts here are in regards to Static TV which is dying. We still consume media and this created a vacuum. This is being rapidly filled by a competitor. -- Arbitron. Listen to MP3's.. they want to know. Listen to a radio at work? they want to know. Listen to the traffic report in your car on your commute? they want to know.

Now I carry a pager type device to listen to the encoded audio in broadcasts.. even if it is from a torrent, youtube, MP3, OTA, Cable..

http://www.arbitron.com/about/home.htm [arbitron.com]

And yes they pay you to carry the meter all day if you are in a test market. I expect them to continue to expand.

Information age has made the concept obsolete (5, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221245)

These days Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc. know not only if you watched a show, but how many times you watched it, where you paused, which parts you re-watched, etc. (FYI, hook up Wireshark or Firefox's web console and see for yourself what information is being logged!)

The quantity and quality of the data is better than ever. As more people switch from broadcast and cable to online streaming, why would you need a random sample like the "Nielsen family"? It seems so blunt compared to the accurate real-time data that streaming services can provide.

Re:Information age has made the concept obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221455)

You are right that direct data from Netflix, Amazon, etc. makes sense for data on what people want to watch - series X has a following, so series Y is likely to succeed, while series Z is more risky. What Nielsen is useful for however is pricing ad content for OTA / non-premium cable - what matters there are precisely those who actually watch the show live and maybe the number who DVR the show - first/last commercials might be worth charging more for sue to these customers seeing them with a higher probability even when using a DVR. Nielsen data will probably stay relevant for daytime TV for another few decades - soaps, game shows, 'Today,' etc. are more likely to be watched conventionally than not.

Re:Information age has made the concept obsolete (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221655)

These days Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc.

Oh god, Netflix knows I watched an episode of My Little Pony?

Look man, it was just that I was going through one of those weird, curious phases.

Re:Information age has made the concept obsolete (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222563)

Someone needs to tell Fox about this stuff, so they'll stop canceling all the good shows in favor of more unreality garbage.

Re:Information age has made the concept obsolete (1)

BriggsBU (1138021) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222805)

The problem is that these reality shows are very popular. Just because you and I do not like them does not mean that there are not millions of people waiting with bated breath to see the next fight on Jersey Shore, or to see who is going to fuck over who on Survivor.

No, we don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221249)

We watch with tablets on our laps so we can look up an actor's IMDb page. We tweet about the latest plot twist (discreetly, to avoid spoilers). We fill up the comments section of our favorite online recappers. We kibitz with Facebook friends about Hannah Horvath's latest paramour. We start Tumblrs devoted to Downton decor. We're engaging with a show even if we aren't watching it

Speak for yourself, dude. I definitely don't "kibitz with Facebook friends", and most certainly not about someone's latest paramour on screen. TV is for when I don't want to interact.

Re:No, we don't (2, Informative)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221305)

Yep, maybe I'm just old, but I've never used any of "Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Roku, iTunes, smartphone, tablet" to watch tv. I don't know who Hannah Horvath is (and no I'm not going to google it, and not interested in anyone responding to this post to enlighten me about who she is), I've never watched an episode of Downton Abbey, ever visited Tumblr, and I don't have a twitter account. Also, I have no idea what a "kibitz with Facebook friends" is.

Re:No, we don't (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221371)

How to fit in:

1. Buy an expensive big screen TV (The newest 3D model should suffice)
2. Buy a HiFi sound system (definitely surround sound, bonus points for anything higher than 5.1)
3. Watch television on a handheld device, with a tiny screen and crappy speakers
4. ????
5. Profit!!

Re:No, we don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221381)

#3 is for when you're going #2

Re:No, we don't (1)

slaker (53818) | about a year and a half ago | (#43223293)

I have a giant TV and an expensive AV setup, but I still watch streaming videos on a tablet. Watching The Daily Show is part of my morning bathroom routine and it's a lot easier to carry my Galaxy Tab from my bedroom to my bathroom to the kitchen than it is to turn on my TV, Amp, Receiver and then wake up the PC that I use to stream internet content.

On the other hand, I really dislike Netflix's streaming videos. I might watch an occasional documentary that way, but I prefer to get nice, rippable discs from the snailmail service so I can at least get the full experience for the movies I do choose to enjoy.

Re:No, we don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221401)

Don't pretend you've never used youtube. If that's the case, why do you even need a color monitor or a graphics card?

Re:No, we don't (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221437)

a) He didn't mention youtube.
b) Because video playback isn't the only function of computers?

Re:No, we don't (2)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221589)

Don't pretend you've never used youtube. If that's the case, why do you even need a color monitor or a graphics card?

Never said I didn't use youtube, but since you ask, I've certainly never watched an entire episode of a tv show using youtube.

The main reason I need a graphics card and a colour monitor at work is that the 3d mechanical and optical simulation software I use to design stuff requires an openGL capable graphics card to display some types of results.

I generally don't use my computer to watch video - I have a nice big flat screen tv at home to do that.

Re:No, we don't (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221973)

Yep, maybe I'm just old, but I've never used any of "Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Roku, iTunes, smartphone, tablet" to watch tv. I don't know who Hannah Horvath is (and no I'm not going to google it, and not interested in anyone responding to this post to enlighten me about who she is), I've never watched an episode of Downton Abbey, ever visited Tumblr, and I don't have a twitter account. Also, I have no idea what a "kibitz with Facebook friends" is.

I'm right there with you, and I'm not even that old... young enough that I feel peer pressure to watch Downton Abbey just to get all the references to it in other shows. But I don't watch OTA TV either--I use a HTPC.

Re:No, we don't (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222025)

This is hilarious, Downton Abbey was clearly aimed at the older demographic in the UK, and is, in fact, largely watched by them. As most period dramas are. Are you guys saying that it's a young person's show in the US?

Re:No, we don't (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222175)

I have no idea. I only know that it was parodied on How I Met Your Mother, endlessly pushed at NPR pledge drives, and casually referenced in various media to which I am exposed... do young people give money to NPR?

Re:No, we don't (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222323)

You said that you are "young enough that I feel peer pressure to watch Downton Abbey" - which I found odd, given that although it's a very popular show in the UK, being young would not increase the peer pressure to watch it.

Re:No, we don't (1)

heypete (60671) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222215)

Not sure how you define "young person". I'm 30, my wife is about the same age, and she's a huge fan as are many of her friends in the same age group.

Re:No, we don't (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222339)

People of all ages watch all sorts of shows, and indeed Downton Abbey is so popular that people of all ages must be watching it. No, I was responding to the comment "young enough that I feel peer pressure to watch Downton Abbey", which suggested that Downton Abbey's audience was skewed younger, whereas I think in the UK it would be skewed older. And just to answer your specific point, let's call 40 the midpoint.

I had thought... (1)

betterprimate (2679747) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221319)

I had thought TV was dead.

Re:I had thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222697)

You had been misled by your niche peer group.

Who is "we"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221333)

We, might not be as large a population as you think it is. Slashdot crowd, that is in "we", ok. But most people might be watching TV as they watched all their life.

Minimum viable audience (2)

blarkon (1712194) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221359)

For something to be made, there needs to be a measurable minimum viable audience. If the audience can't be measured, it doesn't count. If you're using advertising to fund the production, you've got to hit a certain number of eyeballs in a certain short period. SyFy seemed to have hit this problem with Eureka and Stargate Universe. People were watching - but not enough to cover the costs of making it. So while we might be getting a great variety and diversity of content - that very diversity is fragmenting the audience so much that a lot of stuff becomes financially unviable. The Neilsen Family provided stifling homogeneity, but it also did sustain a standard of TV production that will be difficult to replicate in a future of fragmented micro-audiences.

Re:Minimum viable audience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221731)

I lived in The Netherlands for many years and there was a report of a TV show that apparently NOBODY watched. Surveys could not find anyone that said they looked at it.

To be honest... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221373)

At first I thought this was another American gun massacre story.

We - who? (0)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221385)

I'm not watching TV since 2005. Such a waste of time.

Re:We - who? (5, Funny)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221445)

I'm not watching TV since 2005. Such a waste of time.

Unlike slashdot

Re:We - who? (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221527)

I'm not watching TV since 2005. Such a waste of time.

Unlike slashdot

hey, it took me only 30 minutes to finish slashdot this morning. Now I'm off to work and see you at night.

Re:We - who? (2)

nblender (741424) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222499)

Yes, you keep spending all your time at work. And don't socialize with your friends or co-workers who might talk about The Walking Dead or Dexter at lunch... You just sit at your desk and munch on your salad while you work really hard; then you go home and code up a storm before bedtime..

The rest of us will maybe go out with friends, maybe play some Ultimate or go for a bike ride and then perhaps watch a bit of TV before bedtime...

Re:We - who? (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#43223233)

nonsense, we spend a half hour doing slashdot AT work, the catch up on the hulu.....see how efficient that is? plenty of time for friends when we're not being paid...

RICKY TOO ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221415)

The Travelin Man is no more !!

Well, it's all right now !! I learned my lesson well !! You can't please everyone !! So you got to please yourself !!

Faded art expressions of past grandeur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221429)

As I watch the screen, my eyes ghosted over from so many countless hours... I wonder, why does one seem so bent on the over expressions of how "we" tweet and trumblr this and that, facebook and pinterest, err just call it whoring our mind's interests for fuck sake.

Seriously, why the drama? Why the we are so cool, we have to tweet that our shit is massive and clogged the toilet for the nth time?!

Like Wired is not a corporate sellout full of ads from day one, I used to pick that mag up and look at it like it was in the wrong section -- not a computer mag, but some style mag with a more gloss than most fashion mags.

Woo, Nielsen's is dead... What next, Jesus and God died too, just taking people a long time to adjust to the reality tv and lack of rationality of it all?!

May not be part of official record now (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221451)

But I know that Nielsen actually asks for this kind of information. If you're watching something on Hulu they want to know.

The Nielsen Family Is Dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221459)

Good! Those people are the assholes responsible for lots of great shows being canceled never to be seen again.

I'd start listing them... but whats the point.. we've all had some favorite show canceled because it wasn't 'popular' with the mindless ancient drones they poll for the nielsen ratings..

Now... if we could only kill off a bunch of the tv executives as well. We would be golden. Those guys are fucking morons who have zero touch with reality.

no, it's not dead (4, Insightful)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221555)

That's dumb. The main value of Nielsen is not that it measures popularity. It measures viewership of the shows (and thus ads) that air on TV.

Ad rates are tied to Nielsen ratings. And this has not changed. So the Nielsen family is as relevant as ever.

Sure, Hulu stats matter too, to fix the price of ads that air on Hulu.

It's amazing how many people think that somehow because they don't watch TV that it is not longer relevant what TV ratings are.

Re:no, it's not dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221947)

That's dumb. The main value of Nielsen is not that it measures popularity. It measures viewership of the shows (and thus ads) that air on TV.

Ad rates are tied to Nielsen ratings. And this has not changed. So the Nielsen family is as relevant as ever.

Sure, Hulu stats matter too, to fix the price of ads that air on Hulu.

It's amazing how many people think that somehow because they don't watch TV that it is not longer relevant what TV ratings are.

It's amazing how many people think that those who price ad rates are somehow not a bunch of ignorant old fucktards hung up on this guy named Neilsen. After all, that's kind of the point of this article, how they are becoming irrelevant.

Through sheer ignorance or corruption (likely the latter) Neilsen has somehow managed to stay relevant. They likely won't though, unless they reach deep in their pockets to buy their way back into the stats game.

Re:no, it's not dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222157)

They likely won't though, unless they reach deep in their pockets to buy their way back into the stats game.

Unless they're going to start paying me to watch cable/broadcast tv, I'll stick with my on-demand Hulu, Netflix, Youtube content, thank you very much.

Re:no, it's not dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222239)

Sensationalist title, but rather inaccurate. The Nielsen Watch division generates only 1/3rd of their income, while the Nielsen Buy division, which is very much alive and kicking, generates 2/3rd. I think Nielsen as a company will be around for a while to come.

(I have done work as a consultant for the Nielsen Buy division).

Re:no, it's not dead (1)

spitzig (73300) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222497)

They are (increasingly) irrelevant in that the Nielson ratings DON'T accurately measure viewership of shows. One reason is because a decreasing percentage of those shows are shown on TV. Shows are being produced for more methods of viewing, and types of ads. People who are advertising on something other than TV are going to be decreasingly interested in Nielson ratings.

They also were always only a sampling. It only chose a certain number of families and tracked their viewing habits. I used to live in an area of the country that wasn't counted because it was too small. The city had 1 million people in the metropolitan area.

Re:no, it's not dead (2)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222551)

you completely missed hte oint of the article. it's saying that the neilsen is dead precisely because it cant accurately measure the viewership of shows. not when people are watching them on Hulu (who shows pretty much the same adds the broadcast station does BTW, including for the same two bit hot dog shop), or Tivo, or on an HTPC, or simply downloading them.

"TV" is o longer just the broadcast signal. Yet that is still the only metric Nielsen actually measures for viewership, completely ignoring all the rest. And then networks make decisions based off that "viewership", when its error rate is astronomically high nowadays.

Nielsen can still be relevant, but they seriously need to update their methodlogy

They DO measure streaming as well (1)

trynis (208765) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221635)

They DO measure streaming as well, at least here in Sweden. I've got their equipment hooked up to my TV. They snoop on the sound from my media player, game console, etc, and on the sound from the TV to the receiver. This way they know what piece of equipment made what sound when, and by using (I guess) some kind of fingerprint algorithm they can compare it to a database of known shows/movies/whatever, and compile the result.

Re:They DO measure streaming as well (1)

Barryke (772876) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222043)

Please watch more Stargate. :D

xbox integration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221647)

I believe the 360 has Nielsen integration to some extent. There's an option to play/not play the "nielson tone" or something... not really sure what it does or represents.

So it wasn't just the Police Squad guy... (1)

unitron (5733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221657)

...but the rest of his relatives as well?

It has been dead for more than a decade. (5, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | about a year and a half ago | (#43221729)

I think this article, and probably many of the comments, shows how little people understand of how the ratings and broadcast networks' business model works.

The "family" has been dead for years, ratings-wise. The only numbers that count -- at all -- are adults 18-49, and within that group women 18-34 are particularly valued. That's why singing and dancing competitions rule the airwaves. If you are under 18 or older than 49 your TV viewing habits do not matter to advertisers, they do not matter to networks. An 100 million kids could watch a prime time TV show, and it will still get canceled if not enough adults are watching.

Why? Because TV networks do not have viewers as customers, it's the advertisers that pay their bills. And the advertisers have decided that those are the only age ranges worth selling to, on prime-time TV.

Online, DVD sales, international sales do NOT bring any revenue whatsoever to TV networks, and no matter how popular a show is off of a US TV set, it is worthless if it does not have an high rating in the key demo. Unless -- and only, unless -- the Network is also the production company for that show. (but most are not) Production companies do make money from DVDs online purchases, rights and online ads -- so a company (such as amazon or Hulu) can bypass the Networks and produce successfully online, as is now happening.

I do disagree with the advertisers age ranges, and feel they could monetize the younger and older audiences as well. But I do also understand why they feel they can reach these audiences easily without any need to pay for expensive TV ads.

We are probably reaching a transition point in TV viewing anyway. A business model like the MLB.TV model is one that probably works best. A worldwide 24/7 online TV channel paid for by subscription and/or advertising. It provides full demographic info in real time, allows one-click purchasing to firms, and it allows for long-tail and niche programming too. That is a much better model for advertisers and viewers -- but not too good for the network middlemen, unless they jump on that bandwagon right now.

As an aside, similar is true for movies -- which have a totally different demographic (12-24 usually). Long, long gone are movies like "The Sand Pebbles". Why? Because adults do not go to the cinema in sufficient numbers to matter, unless they are taking their kids to see a kids movie. There is very little overlap between TV and movies in terms of significant audience. Movies are only for children, and TV is only for adults these days (and female adults mostly too, since men are easy targets through sports).

Re:It has been dead for more than a decade. (1)

spitzig (73300) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222525)

Funny, I just read an article about the guy who wrote Primer making a new movie. And, couple weeks ago, I went to see Les Miserables.

Adult movies are still being made, and with Indie movies, probably more of them. Just, look for them.

Re:It has been dead for more than a decade. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222659)

The "family" has been dead for years, ratings-wise. The only numbers that count -- at all -- are adults 18-49, and within that group women 18-34 are particularly valued. That's why singing and dancing competitions rule the airwaves. If you are under 18 or older than 49 your TV viewing habits do not matter to advertisers, they do not matter to networks. An 100 million kids could watch a prime time TV show, and it will still get canceled if not enough adults are watching.

You seem unaware that there's much more to television than the prime-time network broadcast channels. (And your concept of prime-time seems limited to 8-9PM.)
 

A business model like the MLB.TV model is one that probably works best. A worldwide 24/7 online TV channel paid for by subscription and/or advertising. It provides full demographic info in real time, allows one-click purchasing to firms, and it allows for long-tail and niche programming too.

MLB.TV only works because it's basic and most important product, the baseball game, is not only essentially free (being paid for by the team owner), it's also pre-sold (there's a lot of baseball fans), and more-or-less stable (there's nothing new in the lineup and nobody's going to be cancelled). That's pretty much utterly unlike conventional programming, where not only do the show's production costs have to be paid, but new shows have to earn their bones. You're extrapolating from apples to bicycles... and that's a very dodgy business.
 

Long, long gone are movies like "The Sand Pebbles". Why? Because adults do not go to the cinema in sufficient numbers to matter, unless they are taking their kids to see a kids movie.

Um... what planet do you live on? Because here on Earth, there's a lot of movies that do very well that aren't kid's fare. (Not that there's anything magical about Sand Pebbles anyhow. It was a modestly popular novel that caught the eye of a producer/director with juice enough to convince the studio to make the film.)

neilsen dead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221769)

all I can say is "YAY!!! Let the mofo BURN!!!"

Only socialist pussies on welfare do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43221829)

"We watch with tablets on our laps so we can look up an actor's IMDb page. We tweet about the latest plot twist (discreetly, to avoid spoilers). We fill up the comments section of our favorite online recappers. We kibitz with Facebook friends about Hannah Horvath's latest paramour. We start Tumblrs devoted to Downton decor. We're engaging with a show even if we aren't watching it"

Some of us have jobs.

Neilsen became obsolete... (4, Insightful)

houbou (1097327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222205)

the moment VHS and Beta came on the market and allowed us to tape our shows, that's when Neilsen became obsolete. That and the fact that there are certain types of shows which timeslot and popularity have no relationship. We are empowered to watch a TV on our own time by being able to record it. Neilsen ratings have been a failure for a long time, but then again, the entire sponsoring mechanism behind funding a show isn't all that good either.. Look at shows like Stargate SG-1 who didn't rely on sponsors.. lasted 10 seasons and spun off 2 other shows and direct to movie DVDs, etc..

Re:Neilsen became obsolete... (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222439)

I wouldn't got THAT far back... while people would obviously record their shows or movies it wasn't THAT large of a number. And by agreeing to be a Nealson family you'd probably not do it was much as the regular person. I recall doing it, and doing it was a PitA. You could get maybe 2hr on a tape on "good" quality (more on poor quality) and after a while you'd wear out the tape. We had a very VERY old VCR (one of the early ones) and I recall programming that thing was a pain.

But now-a-days, a large percentage of people watch shows from iTunes or streaming services. And a LOT of people use DVRs. It's a couple of actions, no "disposable" cassette to worry about. It's just a part of life.

Why does Nielsen still exist ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43222435)

I got a Nielsen Book back in the 80's when I lived in Manhattan. We were mostly accurate, but did add a few shows we liked but didn't actually watch that week. This made sense with a dumb one way cable system, or for OTA.

Thirty years later, you get your TV from Satellite, who phones home. You get your TV from Cable, where the current DOCSIS 3.0 boxes are sending back "what is watched" information (this is how my cableco knew to bump a minor euro-news channel up two tiers in price). I'm sure my TiVo boxes are reporting back-I've read this as well.

Now that they know, for sure, what is tuned in, for how long, and if it is real time or DVR time, (and if commercials are skipped), why does Nielsen even exist ???

They hated me.... (3)

realsilly (186931) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222601)

One quiet Sunday morning in 2007 at around 8:00 am, I received a call. It was from a survey company asking if I would talk to them about taking a survey. I politely explained I was on the "Do Not Call" list and requested that they don't call again. The woman on the other end of the phone was aghast at my response. She responded, "...but were the Nielson Ratings company", to which I promptly responded, "So." Again she was floored at the fact that I would not take the survey and didn't care it was the Nielson Ratings. She stammered, "But were the prestigious Nielsons Ratings Company." and she said something else still trying to convince me to take their survey. I finally responded, (paraphrased) "I don't care who your are at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning, you woke me up for some survey that I don't want to take, good bye." I then promptly hung up.

I don't care who you are, if I politely inform you that I don't want to take your call, simply be gracious enough to not argue with me and end the call.

dead because TV sucks (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year and a half ago | (#43222903)

Sorry, but I abhor network television. The constant litany of crime scene investigation shows is definite proof of a dumbing down of society. Crime shows are essentially the same story told week after week after week with only minor changes to the who, what, where, why, and how of forensic investigation. I pretty much believe there are no real writers anymore on these shows, only a computer churning out templated scripts.

The moment a show comes out with a plot arc that spans multiple episodes the idiot masses turn away because it is too difficult for them to maintain a connection between multiple 43 minute episodes after several days. Almost every non-serial show is yanked off the air, often before it can even complete a full season. Instead the idiot masses prefer predictability and repeatability, and the show better conclude its plot at the end of 42 minutes.

And don't get me started on "reality" TV. Not just Survivor and its spin-offs, but the slew of shows about hicks trapped in their homes because they bought too much shit and are too lazy to clean up after themselves, or even dumber shows about hicks trading shit to other hicks, or hicks in the swamp, or hicks looking for ghosts. I mean when the American Mid-West and South become one of the biggest entertainment zones in the world. Those channels that spew out this kind of trash are owned by all the network channel parent companies realizing that for near zero investment they can entrap millions into believing they are better then the hicks they are watching on TV, but clearly are directly on par with those people. Hick shows are subsidizing crime investigation shows and its all easy money for networks because there is no integrity at all in television, if there ever was.

And finally in the 500+ channel universe the viewers are so spread out between all this vapid content the idea of getting 20+ million viewers concentrated enough to watch something that is worth while to advertisers is getting much more difficult. Unless its the American Idol finaly or Superbowl, its impossible to get more then a few million people watching TV live at a given moment in time. Distribution companies realize its not about the ad revenue from one show any more, its about spreading out garbage on 20 other channels which gets the most viewership. If people are not watching CSI at that particular moment, its probably because they are watching some overweight pampered 6 year old on crack yelling at the camera about how beautiful she is.

So, yes, Neilsen is dead because its irrelevant. When 20+ years of historical data shows that crime shows and reality TV dominate ratings, and these shows are spread out over 500 channels the idea of audience size is a dead concept; what is the point of trying to find out what the average dumb viewer wants to watch on TV at any given moment when it is all just money-making garbage anyways.

Well, yeah, but Nielsen still gets what matters (1)

jht (5006) | about a year and a half ago | (#43223219)

I'm not saying that for love of Nielsen (because shows I've loved got screwed by the ratings system), but basically, TV shows have two models for monetization outside of PBS:

1: Give the shows away over the air and sell ads to pay for it.

2: Sell access to the channel at a premium and make the shows worthy of the premium.

The first covers all network TV and virtually all of basic cable - even though the cable companies pay to carry the basic cable channels. The second covers HBO, Showtime, etc. In the premium model, they might care about non-traditional ways of engaging with content. Because it increases interest and loyalty, thereby driving up demand for the channel - which either can result in a better deal for the channel or more subscribers.

But for a traditional channel, all they care about is the ads, who views them, when they are viewed, and if they are viewed. Looking up info on IMDB doesn't help them, ordering the season on DVD is a nice bonus but not essential, browsing the show website doesn't help them. TV channels sell ads, and they want to sell them to the right people at the right times. Viagra ads don't run during Bugs Bunny cartoons. Breakfast cereal ads don't run during Matlock (just to use obvious examples). Cadillac doesn't advertise on a WWE show, but Kia might. They want to know who the audience is and how big it is. DVRs don't help them that much, though they are awesome for us.

The fragmentation of the TV market and the explosion of channels makes it exponentially tougher to handle the advertiser-based market properly, but still the Nielsen data is the most useful metric that they have. It needs to be updated for the modern era for sure, but it still provides the raw data needed to sustain the ad-based model.

Missing the point: ads not shows (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year and a half ago | (#43223249)

Actually, the basic premise seems to be that Nielsen is irrelevant as a metric because of these outlets, and that premise is wrong. The whole and sole point of Nielsen isn't to determine how many people are actually watching the show...it's actually to figure out how many people are watching the advertising. Yes, yes, I know...they talk about who's watching what show, and all that, but in reality that isn't the important thing, and isn't the point...the money is in the advertising, and the ratings are used as the way to judge the value of those spots. Remember, ads are how broadcast makes its money...and what you can charge for your advertising is directly linked to the share you have for prior or similar programming. Now, for Hulu, they have clear metrics; you can tell when X account watches Y ad. Netflix doesn't have ads (at least not for me), so that isn't a factor, but both Hulu Plus and Netflix are paid models and they still have consumption metrics. Apple TV isn't real, in this equation; that's like calling out "Samsung DVD players" as a category, since all it does is process content by other avenues like Hulu or iTunes or Netflix. But for all of these alternate avenues, and the fact that the times are, actually, a'changing, broadcast is still a huge business, and the way most Americans consume content. So that's not really what's going on.

What I think IS hurting Nielsen...badly...is the DVR. I know many, many people who practically never watch anything live anymore, and who skip through the commercials with the greatest of ease. These cases break the Nielsen model because for the first time, people are actually watching the broadcast content, but not being subjected to the ads at all. There are some exceptions to this...if we see a new Allstate Mayhem ad, for example, we'll freakin' watch it...because they are entertaining as hell. So, here's the upside of this change...TV ads which are annoying may go the way of the dinosaur, because people are starting to have a choice.

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