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The Nielsen Haters
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By: Darrin Duber-Smith

 

The Nielsen Ratings have been a fact of life in advertising for many decades. This periodic sampling of TV viewers across the U.S. is the primary factor in how prices are set in the advertising industry since it reflects how many people are watching a particular program and thus the advertising that supports it. But what if the "ratings", almost as old as television itself, don't really accurately reflect the reality of content viewership in today's media environment? That's where the "hating" comes in.

 

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Like most marketing research, the ratings are based on a sampling of the TV-viewing population, and many industry observers believe that ratings are dropping in general partly because the people at Nielsen have been slow to keep up with the times. Recent attempts by Nielsen to measure "non-traditional" viewing, namely co-viewing, out-of-home and digital users, has been met with much criticism. And as a result, NBC recently decided to stop exclusively relying on Nielsen because the ratings service did not measure out-of-home viewing.

 

As TV ratings continue to fall across the board it is clear that Nielsen and other far less important ratings services must do more to measure non-traditional viewing. There are billions of dollars at stake, and an antiquated ratings system with a monopoly cannot serve the industry adequately in this day and age. Video viewing now exists across many devices, especially among the coveted under-30 demographic, but it is still video viewing. The definition of TV has changed. Yes, ads are reaching these consumers, and the industry revenue model demands that viewers be counted. Clearly Nielsen has to get better at what it does, and it would be nice to see a significant competing ratings service emerge to lubricate the wheels of progress. Let's see what happens.

 

Discussion:  Do you think that Nielsen's monopolistic position affects it's desire to keep up with the times? What can networks do to improve a situation that only gets worse by the day?