Half Nielsen 

Ratings giant losing its grip?

click to enlarge TV: It's changed a lot over the years.
  • TV: It's changed a lot over the years.

We always hear about television ratings but very few of us actually understand how that information is collected. The general impression is that what you watch is monitored, recorded and analyzed and the decisions you make with your remote have some bearing on what shows stick around and which get axed. But that's not really the case.

The traditional methods for analyzing viewership and demographic data are changing. One local station is moving away from the industry giant, Nielsen, and looking for new ways to collect information on not only what people watch, but who those people are.  

For years, the Nielsen Co. has been the leader when it comes to ratings. Stations subscribe to the company and get ratings reports four times per year. They can then use that information, complete with demographic breakdowns, to sell advertising.

Here's how it works. Nielsen solicits families, either by phone or mail, to become Nielsen homes. These families agree to have metering equipment installed on their TVs, cable boxes and satellite dishes. Nielsen then tracks what people watch. Families are also given diaries to record what they watch each day. Most television markets are metered and use diaries for supplemental information. Smaller markets, like Little Rock, use the diary method exclusively.

Many markets have changed over to metered ratings, either by their own volition or at the request of advertisers. The idea is that the metered system provides more accurate ratings by monitoring exactly what someone is watching and for how long. It can also give advertisers a better idea of how to target their ad buys. But, according to Larry Audas, president and general manager of KTHV in Little Rock, there hasn't been a big push in this market to make the switch. 

“There would have to be at least consensus among a couple or three of the primary stations,” Audas says. “It just hasn't been on the table. If you think about it there has actually been the opposite movement, one of the stations in the market has dropped Nielsen altogether.”

That station is KARK. General manager Rick Rogala says there are a couple of reasons for that. One, he feels they have a pretty good idea who's watching, just from viewer input and by using other services.

Secondly, he says, “We know that the system is flawed. You can't, in today's media marketplace, measure viewing by asking someone to fill out a diary. The average household watches television for eight hours a day. So to ask them to write down what they watch for a week and to do that accurately — it just doesn't work.”

Rogala says the number of Nielsen's competitors grows every day. Other companies like Simmons and Rentrack offer similar services. There's even a group called the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, established by some of the world's biggest media companies and ad agencies. The group's purpose is to find better ways to track media consumption.

The big push for more detailed viewership information, Rogala says, is being led by advertisers and execs who want more bang for their buck.

“We have a system right now that measures this stuff,” he says. “It's called the Internet. It tells us, by the second, where people go and where they come from, what they click on, how long they spend there. I think that the more that people use the web as an additional form of advertising and the more variables they see that can be measured, then the more they're going to demand that all of their media give them that type of thing.”

And right now, at least in this market, Nielsen isn't doing that. In the July ratings report, there were 687 Nielsen families surveyed. So that means 687 families dictate which shows prosper or fail, and what the advertising rates are. 

As for the Little Rock market, don't expect a switch to a metered system anytime soon. In other markets that have changed over, there's generally a ratings shake-up, something the local stations might not want to risk. 

“I think Today's THV would fare fine either way,” Audas says. “There would probably be some areas where we would excel and there might be some where we wouldn't find any benefit. There's no way to know for sure.”

One thing is for sure, long-standing industry methods for collecting viewer information are changing.

“And we whole-heartedly support it,” Rogala says. “We're constantly looking for additional research. We love the relationship we have with our provider but I want more.” 


From the ArkTimes store



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.

Latest in Media

  • UA cozy with D-G columnist

    An interesting element of the ongoing story of budget problems in the University of Arkansas Advancement Division has been a divide in outlook in the pages of the state's dominant news medium, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
    • Nov 21, 2013
  • Democrat-Gazette covers one of its own in story of reporter Cathy Frye's rescue

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's reports on the rescue of its reporter Cathy Frye, who was missing for days in the hot scrubby desert that is Big Bend Ranch State Park, are gripping.
    • Oct 10, 2013
  • Hodge shares his OA vision

    Roger Hodge, the new editor of Oxford American magazine, talked about his rise at Harper's, his writing philosophy and his plans for the OA before a full crowd last Wednesday at the Clinton School.
    • Sep 26, 2012
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

Dual Chihuly exhibit opening also brings culmination of year-plus forest project

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trump unfit

    • If you google the phrase about "projection" cited by the Investigator, you'll see that it…

    • on May 22, 2017
  • Re: Gitz gets compassion

    • The fact that Arkansas Times is criticizing an OPINION writer, who openly acknowledges his conservative…

    • on May 22, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Uh-oh. Trump outs himself, foolishly denying something nobody accused him of. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/201……

    • on May 22, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation