Nielsen, 4A's study alternative to sweeps

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Nielsen Media Research, major broadcast networks and various ad groups are considering a plan--dubbed "checkerboard"--that could end the controversial TV sweeps measurement periods.

The sweeps months of November, February and May are important to local TV stations, which use ratings and demographic information gathered during those periods to set ad rates for the rest of the year.

"Ideally, we'd like 52-week, continuous measurement," said Allen Banks, exec VP-North America media at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' media policy committee. "This would be a compromise. We're studying it."

The Four A's is expected to decide in a few weeks if it will endorse some sort of checkerboard plan.

Many TV stations use various types of contests and programming stunts to try and boost ratings during the sweeps, posting numbers some say are artificially inflated. The networks claim they have to use their best programming during sweeps to the detriment of other periods.


This plan, put on the table by CBS, creates three 8-week survey periods during which diaries would be distributed in various markets. The time frames would be October-November, January-February and April-May.

In one proposed variation, only two periods would be measured in most markets, October-November and January-February.

Other Four A's committees would have to sign off on the plan.

"It's a slight improvement to a bad situation," said Laura Silton, senior VP-director of local broadcast at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, and a member of the Four A's local broadcast and radio committee.

Probably the most vocal opponent of the plan is Howard Nass, senior VP-executive director of local broadcast at TN Media, who's chairman of that committee. "It would be a Band-Aid, and then everyone would not bother to fix the underlying problem," he said.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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