NIELSEN REPORTS STARTLING PEOPLE-METER FINDINGS

Local Market Data Shows Dramatic Viewership Changes

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Nielsen Media Research is reporting that its controversial local-people-meter (LPM) system has found startling changes in TV viewership over the last year among 18- to 34-year-olds.
Photo: Nielsen Media
A Nielsen People Meter for TV monitoring.
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The company said data from the six local markets with LPMs show dramatic increases in the number of viewers 18-34 in July 2005 vs. July 2004. The increase occurred in all the markets and in most day parts. The meters track viewership of local broadcast and cable stations.

As high as 83%
In Washington, the 18-34 viewership increase was 83%; Philadelphia, 56%; San Francisco, 55%; New York, 24%; Chicago, 21%; and Los Angeles, 10%.

A Nielsen spokesman attributed the changes to the meters' ability to track overall local viewership more accurately.

Media buyers have long complained that Nielsen’s local ratings based on paper diaries the LPMs replaced undercounted 18- to 34-year-old viewers. The new results appear to confirm that.

'More right than wrong'
Kathy Crawford, president of local broadcast for WPP Group's MindShare, said she thinks the numbers represent measurement improvements, not real changes in viewing patterns. “This is more right, more right than wrong, but I can’t tell you if it's absolutely right," she said. "It more right than the metered diaries.”

"Overall, people are viewing more," the Nielsen spokesman said. He said the greatest overall increase was in the early morning (weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.), overnight (weekdays from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.) and Saturday (from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.) with daytime programming showing increases in the number of men in that age group watching TV.

Overall prime-time viewership in the category was up, too, especially in Washington, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, the increase was most notable in the 18-to-24 part of the segment, but the LPMs showed more than twice as many people 18-34 watching early morning TV than had been reported a year ago when the paper diary system was in place. In New York, the numbers showed twice as many men 18 to 34 watching TV this July as was reported a year ago, with the number of men tuned in during the afternoon (noon to 4 p.m.) up 73% from a year ago.

National vs. local viewership
There are two separate people meter programs -- one measures national viewership and the other measures local viewership. Nielsen's latest report involves only local viewership.

Broadcast networks, cable networks and syndicators use national prime-time ratings created by a nationwide sample of people meters, which Nielsen introduced in 1987. Currently, the company has about 8,000 people meters deployed across the U.S., though it expects that number to rise to 10,000 by May 2006.

TV stations, rep firms and cable systems use local ratings. Nielsen has about 800 local-people-meter homes in each market where it offers the service. Where it doesn't offer LPMs, ratings are determined by paper diaries and set-meter boxes.

$17.3 billion spot market
Network TV, syndicated TV and cable TV ad spending together totaled $36.3 billion in 2004 and spot TV spending in local markets -- such as those being measured by the LPMs -- totaled $17.3 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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Abbey Klaassen contributed to this report.

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