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Nielsen Will Measure TV ratings Among DVR Users

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the watching-you-watching-britney dept.

Television 133

prostoalex writes "TV ratings publisher Nielsen is one company that got affected by the digital video recorder boom. With 7 million households recording TV shows and watching them on their own schedules, the concept of primetime changes, and the audience reporting is becoming skewed. So now Nielsen is launching a special program for DVR households, which would allow advertisers and TV executives to track the popularity of TV programs. Nielsen plans to distribute paper diaries among the households that use digital video recorder. Last time I did a Nielsen TV rating diary, they paid $5 a week."

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133 comments

Torrents? (4, Interesting)

Laivincolmo (778355) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809829)

I wonder if they'll ever start surveying torrent downloaders of tv shows... :)

Re:Torrents? (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809874)

I wonder if they'll ever start surveying torrent downloaders of tv shows... :)

You misspelled subpoenaing.

Re:Torrents? (1, Informative)

Moofius.the.Cow (828077) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809908)

This wouldn't be terribly hard to do on an automatic basis, as long as you had access to a good directory of torrents.

Just connect to each of the trackers in question, note which IPs have completed downloads of the shows you're interested in, and correlate this with your records of other trackers*.

* Mass lawsuit against your fans optional.

Re:Torrents? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810064)

Actually www.tvtorrents.net already has those stats - look in the 'completes' column.

Re:Torrents? (1)

cosmic_0x526179 (209008) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810334)

Remember one thing... NMR could not care less what you download... they care what you watch. Which is also the point of the DVR stuff (unchanged from the days when I worked there oh so many years ago) is the same as with VCR playback. They care what you actually have your eyeballs on, not what you recorded (or downloaded in this case).

Re:Torrents? (3, Interesting)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810972)

I downloaded all the episodes of Alias seasons 1, 2 and 3. I plan to do so for 4 when it comes out as well. Why? Because some kind person makes HDTV versions available -- which are higher quality than the DVDs I bought of the same, and I don't own an HDTV TV; I watch them on my computer.

Yes, I bought the DVDs -- why? Because I want to give them a few bucks toward the next season. Vote with your wallet.

Already signed up. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10809832)

My DirecTiVo asked me awhile ago if I wanted to participate. I don't mind sharing data on what TV I watch, and if it will report it automatically to help the shows I do enjoy be renewed and stay on the air, I think it's great. I've also done a radio diary once, it was a pain to keep track of. This will make the process a lot easier.

Re:Already signed up. (2, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809951)

So did I. No only do I not mind people tracking what I'm watching, I WANT them to to monitor it. Anything I can to do to try to show how little I like much of the innane and stupid TV that's on these days (and to help them realize some of those little gems that I don't want to ever dissapear).

That said, they said that they would call me if I was in (IIRC) and I've yet to be called.

Re:Already signed up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810160)

um, to join the program, didn't you have to sign some sort of agreement about not divulging your participation in said endeavour?

Re:Already signed up. (2, Funny)

healy (234314) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810975)

I can not confirm or deny any such agreement that I did or did not sign to join or not join such an endeavor.

Re:Already signed up. (3, Informative)

xanderwilson (662093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810152)

Even without that agreement, Tivo keeps track of what people watch, but says they do it entirely anonymously. Which is why they got to know the "most replayed' moment during the Superbowl half time. I'm surprised Neilson doesn't just pay for that data directly from Tivo. They did that, and I'd even Tivo the Whedon episodes I have on DVD.

Alex.

Re:Already signed up. (2, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810537)

They probably want much more specific data that the anonomized and agregated data TiVo collects. My guess is that most of the TiVo data is just "person X has 31 season passes and 12 hours on their thing and watches an average of 4 hours per day". I wouldn't be suprised if info like the Superbowl thing is only because they tracked that specific show. I'm not sure how valuable that kind of info would be on most shows.

Re:Already signed up. (1)

Class Act Dynamo (802223) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810385)

I found the radio diary quite easy. My car radio got stolen so when I got the radio diary, I just filled out "Did not listen" for seven days and sent it back when they asked. Easiest six bucks ever.

watching futurama (1)

Lotharjade (750874) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810944)

Yeah, I have Tivo and authorized the same. I don't see the need for a paper diary when they can just tell them what my season passes are. Says a lot to have a TV show as a season pass. Basically you really like it.

Now maybe they will get a clue that they should bring back Futurama. That and not cancell any great shows anymore like Futurama, Farscape, two guys and a girl, family guy, etc...

Im soooo tired of awesome shows coming out and them getting a good following, but the non-cable channels executives don't have the courage or staying power to keep them on the air.

Re:Already signed up. (2, Informative)

whmac33 (524094) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811028)

I just did a Nielsen survey.

They tracked a lot more than what was tuned to on the TV. They had columns for each person in the house and when they were watching and how old and what sex each person is. They even wanted to know what the tv was on when we weren't watching.

Nielsen isn't just total market share. It's demographics and stuff... Tivo can't automatically monitor that stuff.... I don't think.

Also it had a section for what shows I used the myth box to record when I was watching live tv.

1st post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10809839)

MWahahaha

Re:1st post! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10809858)

no!

One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (5, Insightful)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809840)

Nielsen cheerfully tells you what shows are watched, but won't tell you whether the audience kept the commercials on, or whether they muted them, skipped forward, or changed channels for 3 minutes.

Actually reporting what commercials are viewed to completion with sound-on would radically change televsion programming and advertising.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10809856)

I'm sure this is/can be taken into account, however. How users respond to commercial breaks could be determined in an experiment, and then statistically applied to the Nielsen data.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810145)

Yeah... for each ad seperately if you want meaningful data. I remember to press mute when an annoying ad comes up.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (1)

banuk (148382) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809884)

I thought one of the plusses of DVRs was the ability to skip commercials, what use would this be at the Television Bureau of Advertising's annual research symposium. If I had a DVR I'd skip all the commercials and get my daily dose of advertising through /. banners and such

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (2, Insightful)

Peyna (14792) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810123)

Two words: Product Placement.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (3, Interesting)

Saeger (456549) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810210)

Two more words: "Video Overlay"

If product placement gets bad enough, you can bet your ass that the DVR's worth having will also have the ability to download dynamic edit files off the net that can overlay/blur/cut-out the annoying branding. It's not THAT hard to do, and only one person or "release group" has to do it in order to make it available to millions.

Suddenly all the annoying "FedEx" boxes in Castaway, for example, become barely noticable "Acme" refs, saving you from being mentally engineered like consumer cattle.

--

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810343)

Still doesn't hide the face that Voigt is superior than Wilson.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (3, Funny)

Christopheles (803724) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810593)

I don't see how that changes much, after you change it, it's still promoting Acme, and I don't support their exploitation of third-world sweat-shop workers to construct sticks of dynamite and bizarre Rube-Goldburg like devices that frequently fail and are indeed quite dangerous to their operators.

BOYCOTT ACME!

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810615)

I dont know about this. Bladerunner wouldnt be the same without the cocacola and Atari signs. A lot of movies would make no sense without the ads.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (2, Informative)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810000)

Nielsen cheerfully tells you what shows are watched, but won't tell you whether the audience kept the commercials on, or whether they muted them, skipped forward, or changed channels for 3 minutes.

Actually reporting what commercials are viewed to completion with sound-on would radically change televsion programming and advertising.

FWIW, Tivos have the ability to do all of this, assuming of course that the owner of the Tivo uses the stock remote instead of a universal remote, and most Tivo owners do use the stock remote.

The tivo remote also has the ability to control your TV and your sound system, and when e.g. you press the mute button, adjust the volume, or turn off the tv, the remote simultaneously sends another IR signal to the tivo telling the tivo what button was pressed, and the tivo logs it and reports it to the company every night. It also logs when you fast forward, rewind, instant replay, etc. It also logs what recordings you have watched throughout the day, how long you've watched them for, how many times you've watched them, etc.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810069)

why would they track something like this in the remote and not just the unit itself? i think you're making things up or supposing things.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (1)

mdfst13 (664665) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810110)

"why would they track something like this in the remote and not just the unit itself?"

Perhaps because you mute the *TV*, not the DVR?

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810845)

why would they track something like this in the remote and not just the unit itself?

Read what I posted. If you press the mute button on the remote for example, it sends two simultaneous infrared signals: One telling the DVR that the mute button was pressed, thus it logs it, and another one giving the mute command to the TV.

i think you're making things up or supposing things.

I have been hacking tivos for almost three years now. My reputation in the tivo hacking scene should speak for itself. [google.com] After a while one tends to notice these things, especially while probing the tivos log files and probing the MFS structure.

Re:One thing they carefully will NOT measure... (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810460)

reporting what commercials are viewed to completion with sound-on would radically change televsion programming and advertising

Meaning, more product placement and advertising tightly integrated into program content.

It would be a return to the formula developed for radio broadcasting in the thirties and forties, and television in the fifties, with the advertising agencies firmly in control of what could be broadcast.

The system worked well when it supported quality programing of the sort that only PBS and subscription services like HBO provide now. (Texaco's 75 year sponsorship of the Metropolitan Opera comes first to mind.) But the agencies rarely took chances and usually folded quick;y under pressure.

They would not have fought for the uncensored broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan."

Whew... (1)

Moofius.the.Cow (828077) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809846)

Good thing it's just paper...

I can just lie about my pr0^H^H^H Trek watching.

Re:Whew... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10809859)

No, you have it backwards. You're supposed to ^H the MORE pathetic one.

Re:Whew... (0)

Moofius.the.Cow (828077) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809865)

Oops! Fuck!

$5 a week?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10809860)

Last time I did a Nielsen TV rating diary, they paid $5 a week.

Woohoo! and here I was ready to move to india to catch some of the outsourcing boom. Now I can stay at home, watch television, and earn twice as much!

Consider it community service (5, Insightful)

Alcimedes (398213) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809867)

Please, if you have a chance to sign up for these services, do so. And watch decent television. The sooner we can get the Reality TV craze off the air the better.

"and watch decent television" (1)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809922)

Yeah, Europe and Canada are nice ... :)

Unfortunately... (3, Informative)

jangobongo (812593) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809999)

You can't just "sign up" to be a Neilson "family". They have to contact you. They study demographics and then invite only certain qualifying households to participate.

The nice thing is, though, if you have any problems with your TVs or cable (etc) service, they will send someone over to repair or fix the problem. Anything to keep you watching... We got free service on our TVs that way.

A negative is that you start to become a slave to your TV, because you're "voting" for your favorite shows. Gotta stay home and watch, you know. I always wondered how many Neilson "families" would turn on the TV to certain shows/channels, even when no one was physically there in ffront of the TV to watch.

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

Ibanez (37490) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811245)

You can't just "sign up" to be a Neilson "family". They have to contact you. They study demographics and then invite only certain qualifying households to participate.


Hence the reason he said if you have a CHANCE to, then sign up for it.

Not everyone sign up for it.

Re:Consider it community service (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810169)

The sooner we can get the Reality TV craze off the air the better.

I have DirecTV and a DVR. Hundreds of channels, all time-shifted. Watch what I want when I want. History, Discovery, Sci-Fi, Bravo, Trio, A&E, TechTV, Cartoon, Boomerang, VH1 A, B, C, & D, seventeen PBS nets, and Alison Mack in Smallville new once a week and seven more old in syndication. All the producers of Reality TV shows would have to band together, dress up like Carmen Miranda, and set off an M-80 in my living room before I was even aware of what channel they were on, let alone feel constrained to watch any of their stuff. Don't you have the same selections I do, or is Mark Burnett holding your dog hostage?

(Now, Reality TV sucks big time because the producers don't pay proper Guild fees to the writers (in part because they don't want to formally acknowledge the shows _have_ writers, in part because they're cheap SOB's...), but that's a whole 'nother thread....)

You have all those channels, you should have seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810775)

They're all doing Reality TV. Trading Spaces, He's a Lady, Junkyard Wars, cooking shows of all sorts, dating shows of all sorts... Junkyard Wars is really good, Trading Spaces is decent. Most of it is reprehensible.

You just can't flip without seeing dozens of shaky-cam video feeds with bad lighting and people acting badly. It's the reverse of internet anonymous fuckwad syndrome... put someone in front of a camera and it all becomes bravado.

So yeah. I'd like to have Discovery Network back from the "reality" phase and showing some documentaries or something. Thing is, the shows I'd like to watch are actually about reality. They're just not gossip.

Re:Consider it community service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810258)

Ah, the ultimate reality show: 16 participants from all walks of life (13 white + 2 token african-americans + 1 token east-asian) spend 15 weeks sharing a single television set. Every night they must decide which shows to watch and at the end of each week one participant is voted off. Who will remain as the ultimate couch potato, and what shows will it watch?

I always thought it was funny..... (3, Funny)

thewldisntenuff (778302) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809869)

That they sent me the books with like $20 already inside.....

I never did complete them, but I always hoped they'd send more...:)

-thewldisntenuff

That explains a lot (4, Insightful)

AllenChristopher (679129) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809896)

Reality television and the rest of the dreck suddenly makes a lot more sense if we're surveying people who are willing to spend the time writing down everything they watch for $5 a week.

I thought they used special boxes... I guess that only worked when the television landscape was more uniform.

Re:That explains a lot (2, Informative)

ke4roh (590577) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810421)

I did a paper diary at Nielson's request some years ago - perhaps in 2000 - and they paid a whopping $1 for the data. We wrote down what shows we actually watched, those that were on but nobody was particularly watching, and the shows we liked that we didn't get a chance to watch. We also noted which shows we recorded (by VCR at the time) for later viewing. We didn't expend effort watch everything we like, we just did our usual stuff.

I imagine they have different tiers - people paid $1 are differently motivated than people paid $5. Likewise, people with a set-top box (or a DVR) report different informaiton than those who write it all down. (TiVo switches back to playing live TV after a little while - whether the TV is on or not, nevermind if someone is in the room or not.)

Maybe some good shows will be saved (3, Interesting)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809900)

I had regularly TiVo'd the live-action version of "The Tick". When it was canceled, I remembered reading news articles about the time it was on and how that killed it in the ratings. And I, a TiVo user, had absolutely NO CLUE when it was actually broadcast. None. All I knew was sometime during the week a new episode showed up on the Now Playing list, so when I had a bit of spare time, I watched it.

It's good that they're taking this step. Maybe some otherwise decent shows will show higher ratings now.

-S

Re:Maybe some good shows will be saved (1)

Guiness17 (606444) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810404)

I was like that with Anime Unleashed. ('cept it was DTV and Ultimate TV).

One sleepless night I was surfing at 3am, and saw it. I remember thinking 'this is when this it's on? Wow, does anybody actually see it?'

Re:Maybe some good shows will be saved (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810652)

Also, the presidential updates on the war on terror and 9/11 didn't help The Tick much.

Re:Maybe some good shows will be saved (1)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810787)

So wait, you want more good shows, or more shows like teh live-action Tick? Now, the cartoon "The Tick" was amusing, but the live action version?

Their Data will be Mythical - or will it? (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809952)

Of course they are only likely to get information from people they can easily find, such as Tivo Customers and Sat TV companies who supply boxes with recording cabpabilities.

They will totally miss those using Mythtv ( http://www.mythtv.org/ [mythtv.org] ) or Freevo ( http://freevo.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] ) or any other home brew solution.

They will totally miss those using Mythtv (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810032)

Both of them
(only kidding!)

Re:They will totally miss those using Mythtv (1)

mrgreen4242 (759594) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810384)

While I know you are kidding, the number of people actually using these systems is likely small enough that, statistally speaking, they would only need to include 2 or 3 into the sample group to be representitive. Couple that with the fact that the deviation of shows watched between a geeky TiVo user (me) and a MythTV user is probably next to nil, so their ommision is larglely irrelivent.

Re:Their Data will be Mythical - or will it? (1)

mojotooth (53330) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810373)

Yes, yes they will. But let's be fair... you have to walk before you can run.

Re:Their Data will be Mythical - or will it? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810952)

Write a plugin to send viewing/recording information anonymously to secure servers. Publish the stats information somewhere. Charge neilson for the data to pay for your plugin writing time.

I have been writing one for a bit (1)

clusterix (606570) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811027)

The server is almost done. Plan to have SOAP based transfers for client and Tivo-like recording suggestions for viewers to have the incentive to sign up.

The next big step is a general client SDK licensed under BSD with multiple languages to integrate in any PVR/DVR. Need C++ for MythTV, Python for Freevo, and enough docs to help commercial systems integrate it.

Not sure how commercially viable it is, or how popular it can be made...

If anybody wants to work on it with me, please contact me.

Re:Their Data will be Mythical - or will it? (1)

Stinking Pig (45860) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810991)

Look up -- really high up, like higher than a skyscraper... that's the error margin that homebrew solutions all fall under.

No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (4, Informative)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809953)

Nielsen plans to distribute paper diaries among the households that use digital video recorder.

I got a call from the Nielsen survey guy this morning (who in hell calls at 9:07 on a Saturday morning?) asking if we wanted to take part in the DVR survey. He specifically told me that with the DirecTivo, other than signing the permission for them to monitor the shows I watched/recorded, we wouldn't have to do anything.

With luck, this will result in better data than last time. Last year we were asked to fill out a paper diary, but my wife was hogging the television all week watching the baseball playoffs, so that skewed the results.

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809973)

other than signing the permission for them to monitor the shows I watched/recorded,

Its bad enough they can detect what you record, but inexcusable that they can tell what you actually watched.

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (2, Insightful)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810139)

Oh suck it, you paranoid douche. If I didn't want them to know what I watched, I'd make the TiVo to stop sending my data. It's not like I'm typing my most perverse masturbation fantasies into the wish list, hoping that something cool will appear.

I *want* them to know what I watched. I want them to know that I never watch Fear Factor, Good Morning America, Regis and whoever-the-fuck, reality shows, or any show with "Law and Order" or "CSI" in the title. I want them to know that when American Idol is on, I'm not watching or recording it. I want them to know that I don't give a rat's ass about Leno *or* Conan. I want them to get into their thick heads that western movies gobble donkey balls and my wife and I would rather rather watch hideous jewelry wobble around on a turntable on the Gemstone Shopping Network while we shout "eeeew!" than watch John Wayne swagger around.

I want them to know that I never watch television news unless something's blowing up the fuck up right now, in which case I'll watch CNN. I want them to know that my wife thinks Iron Chef is better than Emeril, movies with Cary Grant are better than movies with John Wayne, and Wanda Sykes does great standup, but she sucks in any other format.

I want them to scan my wish list and get those movies on the air. Right now. I want them to know that I still have a season pass set for Jonathan Creek, because it was a goddamned good program and I hope they bring it back. The same goes for Family Guy. (Yes, they're bringing it back, but knowing Fox, they'll again put it in the redheaded-stepchild time slot on Sundays, the one that starts when the football game still has two minutes of game time (translation: 1 hour of real time), no one will watch, and they'll kill it again.)

So you can go suck it, TinfoilBoy. I want my opinion heard.

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810291)

my wife and I would rather rather watch hideous jewelry wobble around on a turntable on the Gemstone Shopping Network while we shout "eeeew!" than watch John Wayne swagger around.

Dude, give this a try: stop watching teevee so much.

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (1)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810806)

opinions=friend. :)

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (4, Funny)

mjh (57755) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810097)

but my wife was hogging the television all week watching the baseball playoffs

My question stated in complete awe:

You have a wife who likes sports?
Normal slashdotter question:
You have a wife?

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810271)

My question stated in complete awe:

You have a wife who likes sports?


Where'd you get "sports" from? He said "baseball".

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (1)

wilhelmgoetz (826230) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810143)

Regular TiVo keeps track of all you watch and record, leading them to distribute great statistics like:

'The baring of one of [Janet] Jackson's breasts at the end of her duet with Justin Timberlake, which caused a flood of outraged phone calls to CBS, was replayed a record number of times by TiVo users, a company representative said Monday.'

From http://news.com.com/2100-1041_3-5152141.html?part= rss&tag=feed&subj=news [com.com]

Re:No paper diary required for DirecTiVo (1)

mr_zorg (259994) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810900)

You too? He called me at 9:30. Nice guy. I didn't ask about a paper diary, I just kind of assumed it would be digital. Maybe the papaer diaries are for crappy DVRs that can't handle the custom software Nielsen worked out with TiVo some time ago. FYI, he told me that they still don't have a strategy in place on what to track, so for the first three years they would be collecting ONLY general usage habits, not specific shows. How many shows did you watch live? Did you pause them? How many recorded shows did you watch? Did you use Season Passes or Wish Lists? That kind of thing. (Those he mentioned specifically.) Kind of a bummer. But good that they want to get a feel for the market before trying to measure something they don't understand.

Effect of broadcast flag deployment? (3, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809988)

As a veteran time-shifter, I can only hope (but not hold my breath) that this service might convince broadcasters not to set aggressive limits on shifted viewing of "prime-time" shows. Once the media moguls understand that many viewers don't live life in 30-minute slots, they may be less likely to prevent time-shifting. On the other hand, I tend to time shift by weeks or months and I could see broadcasters setting the system to limit viewing to when 99% of viewers are watching with recording expiry times of only a few days.

Perhaps its time to stockup on pre-broadcast flag equipment.

What's the point of a diary in this case? (2, Interesting)

FunWithHeadlines (644929) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809991)

I don't understand. Why ask people to keep a diary? Isn't the whole idea of a DVR that your viewing habits are being digitally tracked automatically? A diary is weak since it depends on people keeping up with it, filling it out accurately, and so on. So why use that here? Just get the cable companies to release the data that they must be collecting in the aggregate (if not in the specific, for all I know).

Or are there rules against doing that with digital subscribers? I've assumed from the moment I got a DVR from Time Warner that if they wanted to they could track my viewing habits on a second-by-second basis, which beats the pants off any diary method.

And yes, Time Warner has by now caught on to how I like old movies and Star Trek...

Re:What's the point of a diary in this case? (2, Informative)

beaststwo (806402) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810037)

I have a ReplayTV box and it definitely sends stuff back to mommy. Since I started having it dial to a Linux box in my house to use my DSL connection, I started capturing all network traffic to and from it when it connects at night. In a typical night, it gets about 150KB of info and sends about 100KB.

The only things that Neilsen can't get like this in knowledge of who in the family is watching and where they fit in the demographic. So a 40-year old like me might gets ads for Britney or Polygrip, when I really want to see "Bob the Enzyte guy".

Also, my bet would be that ReplayTV and Tivo would want more green than the lousy $5 they pay to the public.

Re:What's the point of a diary in this case? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810165)

as i sit in a time warner building at a time warner PC I can tell you that your DVR recordings are done locally and are thus not being logged.

now Icontrol or On demand... that is a different story as it is streamed from a server, so we have server like stats for it. Just like you might on a webserver.

Re:What's the point of a diary in this case? (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811388)

I don't understand. Why ask people to keep a diary? Isn't the whole idea of a DVR that your viewing habits are being digitally tracked automatically? A diary is weak since it depends on people keeping up with it, filling it out accurately, and so on. So why use that here? Just get the cable companies to release the data that they must be collecting in the aggregate (if not in the specific, for all I know).

Near as I'm aware, a Nielson household is more than just some Joe/Jane with a TV. They are trying to gain demographic data on who watches what. Raw data of when something watched isn't enough. They want to know if it's Little Billy, Sally, Ma or Pops.

I did participate in something similar once. I can't remember what they called it, but it was some form of television show preview where they send you out "tickets" to catch a couple of upcoming pilot shows. Basically you sat down in some hotel conference room and watched some gawd awful turnkey sit-coms with commercials. Imagine all the worst aspects of Threes Company, Dharma and Greg, Friends, and Mad About You all rolled into one. The data they wanted to collect was more than whether you liked the show or not, but whether you remember what was being advertised between commercials. Needless to say they wanted all sorts of subjective data that couldn't just be collected by machine.

Why isn't this in YRO? (-1, Troll)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#10809993)

This is an invasion of our privacy! Next thing you know, they're appointing Ashcroft to head Nielsen! And then they'll start a PATRIOT Channel where they'll broadcast all the names of on the do-not-fly list! They'll use PVRs to record everything you watch! He's TIMESHIFTING OUR RIGHTS!!!! :-)

hahaha (1)

Brightest Light (552357) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811277)

"He's TIMESHIFTING OUR RIGHTS!!!!" nearly made me spew a mouthfull of water all over my keyboard. thanks for the laughs

Commentary from a nielson member (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810002)

I am obligated to post this as AC, because the guidelines for Nielson households forbid me from advertising my involvement with them.

My family has been participating in the Nielson rating system for 4 years now, and for as long as we've had it in our house, it records what channel our video recording units are tuned to when they are recording _as well as_ the tuner on the television itself.

So I'm not sure how this is anything new, exactly

Re:Commentary from a nielson member (1)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810524)

I know my tivo records a lot of junk. Part of that comes from a household of people with different tastes, and also its poor suggestions (I like futurama, a cartoon, so therefore I should like Lizzie McGuire). I delete lots of it without watching. I'd think that would skew the results. Also, there are some shows it'll record because someone paid them to make sure it was available to me... that would skew the results majorly.

Re:Commentary from a nielson member (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810830)

Actually, we just use good old fashioned programmable VCR's... and nobody's hacking them anytime soon.

I won't get a Tivo, for exactly the reasons you describe.

Re:Commentary from a nielson member (1)

AvantLegion (595806) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811102)

You know that you can turn off the retarded "auto-record suggested programs" feature, don't you?

Re:Commentary from a nielson member (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10811214)

Give Lizzie McGuire a thumbs down before you delete it. The suggestions get better if you tell it what shows you don't like too.

The World At Large (1)

The Lyrics Guy (539223) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810011)

Here's a good song for a cold, depressing winter night.

Modest Mouse - The World At Large

Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand.
I move on to another day, to a whole new town with a whole new way.
Went to the porch to have a thought.
Got to the the door and again, I couldn't stop.
You don't know where and you don't know when.
But you still got your words and you got your friends.
Walk along to another day.
Work a little harder, work another way.

Well uh-uh baby I ain't got no plan.
We'll float on maybe would you understand?
Gonna float on maybe would you understand?
Well float on maybe would you understand?

The days get shorter and the nights get cold.
I like the autumn but this place is getting old.
I pack up my belongings and I head to the coast.
It might not be a lot but I feel like I'm making the most.
The day's get longer and the nights smell green.
I guess it's not surprising but it's spring and I should leave.

I like songs about drifters - books about the same.
They both seem to make me feel a little less insane.
Walked on off to another spot.
I still haven't got anywhere that I want.
Did I want love? Did I need to know?
Why does it always feel like I'm caught in an undertow?

The moths beat themselves to death against the lights.
Adding their breeze to the summer nights.
Outside, water like air was great.
I didn't know what I had that day.
Walk a little farther to another plan.
You said that you did, but you didn't understand.

I know that starting over is not what life's all about.
But my thoughts were so loud, I couldn't hear my mouth.
My thoughts were so loud, I couldn't hear my mouth.
My thoughts were so loud.

Welcome back, TLG (-1, Offtopic)

Compact Dick (518888) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810328)

It's heartening to see you're still around. As for me, I'm listening to "Fire Garden Suite" [3:17 / 9:56, MP3 @206 kbps] by Steve Vai [Fire Garden, 1996].

Direct Tivo (1)

bschmitt (653202) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810057)

I have the Direct Tivo unit. It has absolutely changed the way my family watches tv. A few weeks ago we were offered to submit to be one the families for this. If you have Direct Tivo you may have the option at the main menu to join in also.

time warner? (3, Insightful)

evilmousse (798341) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810065)


I always wondered what time warners' cable boxes were capable of sending back to TW. Does anyone know if they do any accounting of what's watched?

I don't see why TW would have to limit itself to DVR either, surely all digital boxes are capable.

Go ahead, sell accounting of my viewing habits--it's one of the few circumstances I welcome it. TW Prices here in WI are just beyond rediculous, it would be nice to get back to being just short of it. =P

GOOD! (1)

Cirrius (304487) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810106)

Maybe the next Firefly equivalent won't get cancelled mid-season.

Who needs ratings? (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810117)

They should immediately cancel the few solidly-written, well-produced, well-acted shows currently on the air, continue producing thousands more hours of video dreck, those vacuous "series" that are as indistinguishable from each other as they are from white noise, and save themselves the worry about "ratings". It's what they really want to do anyways: TV executives seem continually surprised when people actually watch a quality production. It was predicted that Star Trek: The Next Generation would be too "highbrow" for the American audience and would fail miserably (this from some of the folks at Paramount, no less.) I mean, good heavens, a Shakespearean actor in the lead role? That it became a true hit series just blew them away, and that it was a hit among people of all walks of life, not just technojocks, nerds, and old-line Trekkies like me was especially shocking to them.

I mean ... what was the whole point of denaturing the education system in this country to the point where college graduates can't write in full sentences if not to produce a generation of mindless boobs incapable of appreciating a good literary reference or understand humor any less subtle than a Mack truck. Apparently that effort has failed because we do still appreciate a good show with high production values, on those rare occasions when we see one.

The real reason TV programming sucks (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810124)

Last time I did a Nielsen TV rating diary, they paid $5 a week.

I think we now know why TV caters to the lowest common denominator - $5/wk to give up my privacy and maybe manually fill out paper records of what I watch? Only people with nothing better to do are going to participate.

Just think, if someone were to hack the Nielson system, and instead of doing it to be a 1337 B1FF, no bragging rights, just subtle social engineering, we could get some good shows that last.

No more cancelation of a good show because the network can't schedule it well, no more reality show spam. Heck, we could get more pr0n on the air - the next Janet to whip out a tit will get crazy good numbers - fuck the FCC!

Hacking Nielson is better than being president, its like being the the guy who pulls the prez's strings, but without having to worry about a heart attack.

Paper diaries? Reminds me of my boss (1, Insightful)

EvanKai (218260) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810140)

ME: Boss, I'm slammed and I don't have time for any additional projects.

BOSS: Ok. Why don't you start writing down everything you're doing.

ME: And how is that going to save me any time?

People by DVRs because they want to save time. I doubt many will give that up for $5 after paying $200-500 to get it.

Pretty stupid experience (3, Informative)

thoughtlover (83833) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810180)

We recently got rid of the Niesen 'box' in the house I live in. We had four roommates when we started and they didn't really participate. We also know that we are in the two most difficult groups to market to (young women and 25-35 year-old men - yeah, you read that right!) - yet, Nielsen didn't really pay much attention us. I remember a friend who was also doing the survey and he said that they would call his house if they weren't sticking to pressing the 'confirm button' on what looked like antiquated gear (circa 1970's) - the box wold start flashing all of it's lights in a crazed pattern if the person who changed the TV channel didn't also confirm the change with the Nielsen remote. One day, the Nielsen rep came to their door with $50 asking them nicely to be more diligent participants. He did that every month for about three months since they kept it up. At the beginning, they gave us $200 and paid for the monthly land-line phone fee (for their equipment to talk to the local server.)

All of the experience made me curious. I wondered why it took them so long to switch to something more hi-tech. Cable boxes have been out since the 70's. I remember watching Jaws on HBO when I was a kid. We could have easily been a Nielsen house then if they got wise earlier. We didn't give them any useful information in the hopes they would come back to us and say 'it's so important for our statistic pool, here's another $200.'

They never did. We did get Dish with a DVR so that was a great reason to ditch the 'UFO' that roosted on our TV.

One thing they did do was break our VCR when they opened it up to install their sensing equipment. They replaced it with a new one, and then, when they packed up, they gave us a new one in the box because the technician needed to install it at a new house. I think it was refurbished because there was a sticker on the plastic inside that said 'Do Not Return To Retailer' - maybe Nielsen gets them in bulk.

We probably gave them more bunk data than usable. In the end, I guess I'd have to say that we came out on top because I didn't own a VCR with stereo inputs until they came along.

We will be one of the measured families (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810200)

I'm posting anon for this...

We volunteered for the measuring when it showed up in our DirecTivo Showcase a few weeks ago. Yesterday they called us during dinnertime and asked us questions for about 10 minutes about the makeup of our family.

We're happy to volunteer, if only to support the shows that we like to watch.

TiVO users were offered this (1)

rograndom (112079) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810214)

I was one of the TiVO users selected for this program, but since I work in advertising I was disqualified pretty early in the interview process. I was really looking forward to it too.

... paper?! (1)

enrico_suave (179651) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810215)

wilco tango foxtrot?!?!

paper and pencil to document usage of a digital product

*Shakes head* Not that I have a better way of getting data from different DVR platforms, but it still reeks of ridiculous...

e.

WHISKY (2, Informative)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811021)

I think you meant Whisky Tango Foxtrot

For Reference:

Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta
Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel
India Juliet Kilo Lima
Mike November Oscar Papa
Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango
Uniform Victor Whisky X-ray Zulu

When will Nielsen learn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810272)

Nielsen/EDI just laid off a bunch of people that were collecting data by hand, because their competition was able to collect that same data electronically. Now, they move into the DVR market?

Sorry, they're already late to the party, and if they even think about forcing pen and paper, they've already doomed themselves.

Paper? $5/week??? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810351)

This SO explains what tv companies are doing. Their data is based on people who are willing to fill out a paper jounrla of their viewing activities for 5 bucks a week - i.e. who are fucked up enough to sacrifice their priuvacy for a measly sum that is not even a compensation for the time spent on it, even when you discard any notions of surveillance.

Let's see, $5 buys how much of my spare time? Maybe 10 minutes if I am generous, less if it's a task I don't like.

They could NEVER convince me to hand them over my viewing habits unless I knew for certain it would be reliably anonymized. And even then they'd have to pay me more like $100-$400 a week, depending how much effort it is!

$5/week, I haven't laughed this much in quite a while.

g4techtv (1)

sewagemaster (466124) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810472)

perhaps this may give people a better portrail of g4techtv ratings and stop cancelling shows and firing show hosts [kevinrose.com] like the screensavers [thescreensavers.com] .

Re:g4techtv (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10810746)

It's not like anyone worth caring about ever watched G4, TechTV, or G4TechTV in the first place.

On a related note... Why not ratings via DTV? (1)

EdZep (114198) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810534)

Many Direct TV users have a permanent phone connection, primarily for ordering Pay Per View. But, it could also phone home time spent on each channel, at regular intervals. I've often wondered why this hasn't been done (if it isn't already being done).

Redundant? (1)

Romancer (19668) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810661)

I thought that tivo was already doing this.

wouldn't it be easier to just pay tivo to forward their database to nielsen?

I got call today (1)

hoyty (35485) | more than 9 years ago | (#10810783)

About 9 AM today I got a call from Nielsen letting me know I was selected for the TiVo program with them. Asked a few questions and said I was in. One question I have is a technical one. First, does it only count if you watch or does it also count what you record? What if you watch a suggestion? Time limit on ratings, I could watch a recorded show a year later? Lastly, what about when you have multiple tivos?

Paper Diaries? (1)

chuckw (15728) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811120)

I'm participating in that very program and at least for us, there are no paper diaries. We signed a document that allowed Neilsen to utilize the data TiVo downloads from our recorder on a nightly basis. The reason I agreed to this violation of my privacy is that it allows me to have a direct impact on the shows that I like.

Choice of PVR (2, Interesting)

Baseclass (785652) | more than 9 years ago | (#10811275)

I'm surprized that here on Slashdot (the epitome of geekiness) more people don't use homebrew PVRs like MythTV [mythtv.org] or Freevo [freevo.org] .

While I may be a paranoid tinfoil hat wearing nut who doesn't want Tivo knowing what I watch and rewind, my reasoning is dictated more by the fact that I like to customize my box, add functionality, watch videos I download, and freely distribute content to every PC in my house.

The WAF (wife approval factor) is quite high, and it's definitely a hit with the kids. Add the fact that I've learned way more about Linux in the past year than I did over the past 6 years as a casual user and I consider the project a huge success.

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