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"All of your favorite shows are ratings dogs."
March 20, 2013 9:23 PM   Subscribe

The Nielsen Family Is Dead. Nielsen Now Tracks (Almost) Everything You Buy: Credit, Debit and Bank Data Now Combined With TV, Online Viewing. Nielsen Offers Focus on ‘Zero-TV’ Homes. Nielsen Agrees to Expand Definition of TV Viewing. The 23,000 U.S. homes Nielsen currently samples are going to see some changes this year.

Previously: Why Nielsen Ratings Are Inaccurate, and Why They'll Stay That Way
posted by mediareport (44 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
"All of your favorite shows are ratings dogs."

/Gloom.

I really do wonder it that will change if you add in time shifting - people time shift awful sitcoms and reality TV shows too.

Still, at least a lot of the really good ones are from channels where that matters a little less - HBO, AMC, and I guess the good old BBC.
posted by Artw at 9:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nielsen Agrees to Expand Definition of TV Viewing

Who?
posted by Splunge at 9:39 PM on March 20, 2013


I miss the Internet
posted by thelonius at 9:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't even own an internet.
posted by Artw at 9:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


I just have a phone internet.
posted by grizzly at 9:52 PM on March 20, 2013


Rick Nielsen?
posted by Splunge at 10:08 PM on March 20, 2013


No, Leslie.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't know that Amazon was developing so much TV content on its own. Interesting. Why the focus on comedy and children's series, though?
posted by fatehunter at 10:14 PM on March 20, 2013


Weird. We got a post card today telling us to expect a phone call from them:
"Congratulations! Your home has been selected to represent viewers in your community as part of the Nielsen TV Ratings!"

All sorts of things ran through my head, like how will they know what Mr Sunny is watching, he uses myth TV and transfers them to a small screen portable viewer, how much of an invasion of privacy is this, and how can I screw with the ratings?
posted by annsunny at 10:14 PM on March 20, 2013


But, all my favorite shows are "Archer" and "Doctor Who".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


how can I screw with the ratings?

Set timers for everything to turn on at 2am and turn off at 5am. Set the channel to QVC.

Then in a month, read about all the attention home shopping channels are getting as a side effect of the insomina epidemic.
posted by hellojed at 10:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


how can I screw with the ratings?

Wait til they send you the little booklet and ask you to keep track of your viewing habits for a week, and just write random stuff in there. For example, your household of twelve adult viewers could watch nothing but Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Doctor Who, and Fox News.

For bonus WTF points, throw in something like My Little Pony, and watch those ratings really skew.

(Disclaimer: I really should not post while half-asleep.)
posted by zbaco at 10:35 PM on March 20, 2013


As a kid I remember wondering how TV ratings worked, and eventually I came to the conclusion it must be kind of like that episode of The Simpsons when Lisa buys Al Gore's book at a bookstore and the transaction is electronically logged (so Al Gore himself can find out whenever someone buys a copy).

The way T.V. ratings are actually measured is a little like TIME Magazine's U.S. High School rankings; when you discover their methodology all you can say is "Really? That's it? Are you kidding me? How is that in any way a useful metric?"
posted by MattMangels at 10:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was seven, the Nielsen guys came to our house to hook up their boxes to our TVs. I had only a dim understanding about who they were and what they were doing. What I do know is that, at some point during the installation process, the technician cut the cable linking the NES to the TV—as in, he literally cut the wire in two for no conceivable reason. This became most distressing to us children, once we’d realized the full scope of the problem

After a call from my parents, the company compensated our family with a new VCR, which turned out to be a stalwart (if middle-shelf) appliance, capable of serving our VHS-based needs for well over a decade.

I don't recall how the Nintendo wire eventually got replaced, only that it must have happened quickly, because no parent wants to be around kids going through video game detox cold turkey.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


annsunny, a few weeks ago I got a phone call (on my 'where did I put that' landline phone) regarding participating in the Nielsen Ratings. The caller ID did say 'Nielsen' (so if it wasn't the real ratings people, it was somebody with the same name). They requested a minimal amount of personal information which I had no problem providing (single-person-household, over 50 with one TV and DVR) and was told to expect further information by mail. It never came. If that's my biggest disappointment of 2013, then it'll be a good year.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


dephlogisticated: "the company compensated our family with a new VCR, which turned out to be a stalwart (if middle-shelf) appliance, capable of serving our VHS-based needs for well over a decade."

You know that VCR was spying on your family all that time, right? Every intimate family detail was sent directly back to the Nielsen cabal for analysis.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does Nielsen care about people who only watch TNG reruns?
posted by deathpanels at 11:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


how can I screw with the ratings?

Put down a mix of shows that don't air in the US at all, and shows that haven't aired for over a decade. 'Almighty Johnsons', 'Sandbaggers', 'Fleksnes Fataliteter', 'Broen', 'Berlin Alexanderplatz'. Maybe throw in some obscure Eastern European and Middle Eastern shows.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


You know that VCR was spying on your family all that time, right? Every intimate family detail was sent directly back to the Nielsen cabal for analysis.

If so, I sincerely hope that Nielsen employees have health insurance that covers psychotherapy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sandbaggers

Such a great show.

Homeland comes close at times, I think, but isn't bleak enough - you need to be in the entirely beige and grey world of 70s Britain for that, I think.
posted by Artw at 11:35 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


...the Nielsen cabal...

Shit, I always thought it was "Nielsen cable," but now it all makes so much more sense!!!
posted by GoingToShopping at 12:06 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a big racket in India. Target families are regularly bribed with largescreen televisions , in return for them turning to a particular channel 24/7.
posted by the cydonian at 12:53 AM on March 21, 2013


"Let it be known for all times that there were once two planets in this system. The planet Lister made great television shows. The planet Libor made crap. They had to fake their ratings."
posted by dunkadunc at 1:06 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I do know is that, at some point during the installation process, the technician cut the cable linking the NES to the TV—as in, he literally cut the wire in two for no conceivable reason. This became most distressing to us children, once we’d realized the full scope of the problem.

That's a nice non-Hollywood entertainment device you have there... It'd be a shame if something were to... happen to it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:59 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


They mailed and called me several years ago to tell me I'd been selected. The woman on the phone seemed genuinely outraged that I didn't want to participate and didn't care about "my favorite shows." I guess people don't say no to them very frequently? All I watch is Top Gear and Grand Designs. And Archer, of course, these days.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:49 AM on March 21, 2013


I don't even own an internet.

I can't even tell you how excited I am to get a pornograph.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


when Nielsen says they are planning to "expand the definition of TV viewing," it simply means that they plan to include online viewing of television along with broadcast and cable in a single metric. Time shifting is already accounted for- the industry currently uses a measure called "Live+3", which captures the actual airing of a program, plus any PVR viewing for the next three days. This will likely be expanded to "Live +7" once we (media buyers) can get the broadcasters on board, and once we can help advertisers get their heads around it (no easy task).

If you are selected as a Nielsen family, all of your viewing activity will now be captured automatically. Diaries don't even enter into it, and you may even carry around a "personal people meter"- a pager-sized device that will capture your viewing anywhere, inside or outside of the house (I can't remember if they've rolled these out in the states yet- we have them in Canada). It would be very difficult to actually game the system, other than sitting down and watching programs that you hate.

That being said, if you are a fan of niche-y cable shows like Archer and Doctor Who, you needn't worry. These shows achieve much lower ratings, but they are sold for much cheaper than prime-time network programs or major sports. They continue to exist for the same reason that Hillbilly Pawnshop or Bus Station Locker Auction Wars do- you can buy a whole bunch of them very cheaply, and build a demo that way. The real issue with shows that you like, are things like the quirky, smart comedies that networks run during prime time. The fact is, a show like Community or Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 (*sob*) are just not as popular with the kinds of audiences advertisers are trying to buy at a premium during prime time. It is usually not cost-effective to buy an 18-24 or 18-34 demo during this period, and when you broaden that out to 18+, or something like Women 25-54 (very popular with CPG advertisers), these shows will always lose to Two and a Half Men or American Idol.

Nielsen's problems are twofold- one, their TV panel still isn't large enough to provide really robust data on smaller audience segments. 23,000 is barely projectable to a population of 300,000,000, and the in-tab (active) panel at any given time is usually smaller. This has proved to be an issue in the past, with things like Black or Latino viewers (which Nielsen now oversamples). It has also presented problems for their products which combine television data with online activity, or their Homescan panel (which tracks things like grocery purchases). Rather than having a panel large enough to provide true single-source multi-media data (which would be expensive), they've had to build all sorts of funky statistical data-fusion techniques of questionable validity.

Their other problem is that they're a monopoly, and that they have been dragged kicking and screaming by advertisers into any changes they have made.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just received a request to do a Neilson survey, with two crisp dollar bills as incentive. But we cut the cable cord over two years ago, so I don’t even know how to answer the question of the top three shows we watch on TV. My kids watch Mythbusters and My Pretty Pony on Netflix streaming, but they also spent a few weeks watching the Munsters. I’ve been watching Freeks and Geeks, 30 Rock and The X Files. The only current shows I’m watching are Castle and Vampire Diaries, which I watch on Hulu on a laptop, often weeks after the airdate. And I will watch Doctor Who when it comes back, but we can’t discuss how I’ll be doing that.
posted by saffry at 5:21 AM on March 21, 2013


We were invited to participate in the Nielsen survey many years ago, IIRC 1982. I talked to the person on the phone and was only 12 at the time, but that was OK, as long as my mom agreed. She did, but said I had to fill out the surveys, because she wasn't going to bother with it (no box involved, but no cable tv either). I agreed. I could hardly believe the Nielsen people wanted to know what I watched on television!

They sent me two brand new one dollar bills along with the survey book. I happily pocketed the $2 and started filling out the survey for that day. My strategy at the time was only to fill in the very best shows to try to keep them on the air, even if I didn't watch them at the time. I made it about two days more before totally flaking out on the whole thing. So, I had my chance, and I squandered it.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:23 AM on March 21, 2013


TheWhiteSkull: "Bus Station Locker Auction Wars "

I would totally watch that.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:29 AM on March 21, 2013


My strategy at the time was only to fill in the very best shows to try to keep them on the air, even if I didn't watch them at the time.

I had the same thought when we were a Nielsen family in the late 70's. As a teenage boy I felt it was my duty to give Charlie's Angels the best numbers possible.
posted by TedW at 5:39 AM on March 21, 2013


They use these little meters that look like beepers to track media consumption now. So if you have a favorite show, look for someone still sporting a beeper and play a recording of said show at them.

You don't have to explain what you are doing to them because Gargoyles are no fun to talk to. They never finish a sentence. They are adrift in a laser-drawn world, scanning retinas in all directions, doing background checks on everyone within a thousand yards, seeing everything in visual light, infrared, millimeter-wave radar, and ultrasound all at once. You think they’re talking to you, but they’re actually poring over the credit record of some stranger on the other side of the room, or identifying the make and model of airplanes flying overhead.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:54 AM on March 21, 2013


Until my early teens I thought "Nielsen families" were actually named Nielsen, so like the way they determined TV ratings was by surveying a sample of people named Nielsen.
posted by gubo at 7:18 AM on March 21, 2013


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posted by Nanukthedog at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2013


I can't even tell you how excited I am to get a pornograph.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:24 on March 21 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Eponysterical?
posted by Renoroc at 7:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of a funny old Danny Devito movie where all the neilsen families got booked to a never ending cruise while Devito, a sleazy producer, set their TVs to watch abominable dreck.
posted by Renoroc at 7:39 AM on March 21, 2013


"Congratulations! Your home has been selected to represent viewers in your community as part of the Nielsen TV Ratings!"

We are a zero-tv family by their definition (have a TV, no cable, use it for DVDs and iTunes content) and have been for about ten years, maybe fifteen. They called us a few years ago and I turned them down, because hey, I don't feel like giving my personal information to a private company to enable other private companies to make ad revenues.

You would have thought I had pissed on the flag in public. It was like it was my patriotic duty to track what I watched and I was denying Jesus, apple pie, and motherhood by refusing. Then they kept calling, which really seemed to me like "we'll catch her husband and he'll do it", which was a no-go anyway but really a no-go after they called again after I said no the first time.

It took them several weeks to catch a clue that nobody was going to override the little lady and leave us the hell alone. Since that experience, I have always sort of hoped Nielsen would DIAF, so I'm not particularly thrilled to see them moving to catch up on all the people like me who "don't watch TV" and all the other things mentioned in the post. Maybe as they become just another market research/data crunching company, the public will let go of the idea they're doing anything special by helping Nielsen's customers sell us stuff.
posted by immlass at 7:58 AM on March 21, 2013


I still shake my fist at ratings families.
So many shows cancelled before their time (Firefly, B5: Crusade, Terminator Chronicles), most of which were dead before they made it to our shores.

Last Resort started this week. I hope it lasts. The first episode was a blinder.

This Fringe show might start soon. It has a lot of buzz. And I hear there are six seasons of Community and a movie in the pipe.
posted by Mezentian at 8:06 AM on March 21, 2013


I still shake my fist at ratings families.
So many shows cancelled before their time...


I see a potential business opportunity for Nielsen families in there somewhere....
posted by TedW at 9:25 AM on March 21, 2013


Last Resort ABC Canceled
posted by M Edward at 10:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a Nielsen family around 2006. When the technician stopped by to install and uninstall, he asked if I watched any shows online. It wasn't an official question, he just wanted to know for his own personal edification. He figured that was the way thing were heading and the company would have to start monitoring that somehow.
posted by ckape at 11:30 AM on March 21, 2013


I remember being a kid at my grandma's house for some family thing, everyone was in the kitchen eating/socializing, and I quietly went into the living room and turned on The Bionic Woman, with the sound very, very low. Then I went back into the kitchen with everyone else.

I wanted Lindsay Wagner to get "credit," even though we weren't watching her show that night.

I thought we were ALL Neilson families.

Sadly, the show was canceled anyway.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:41 PM on March 21, 2013


We are all Nielson families today.
posted by michaelh at 1:53 PM on March 21, 2013


For bonus WTF points, throw in something like My Little Pony, and watch those ratings really skew.

Unless you've got actual children in the house, I don't think that's going to work the way you think it's going to work.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:49 PM on March 21, 2013


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