Number of 'Nielsen Families' that Fuel TV Ratings to Grow 'Significantly'

Nielsen Ratings Increase Sample Size

Nielsen — aka “the ratings people” — has announced a plan to increase the number of sampled households by a “significant” measure over the next two years.

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Among the Local People Meter markets — that is, households that report viewing habits in part by using electronic “people meters” — Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Miami and Denver will see an increase of 200 homes this year, while Charlotte, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and Phoenix will each add 200 homes in 2015.

The two largest Local People Meter markets, New York and Los Angeles, will have their sample sizes increased by 300 homes next year, to about 1,300 apiece.

The above changes represent on average a 30 percent increase in sample size.

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In the 31 Set Meter markets — those in which TVs are hooked up to a gizmo that allows the study of viewing habits on a minute-to-minute basis — Nielsen over the next two years will expand the sample by 200 homes in each market, or to more than 6,200 homes — an increase of almost 50 percent.

Have you ever been a Nielsen family? How did that work out for you?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Justin says:

    I don’t get why the Nielsen system hasn’t been done away with already.

  2. KP26 says:

    How about we just update this horribly outdated rating system in it’s entirety?

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      With…? And don’t say “monitor everyone’s cable box,” because 1) that doesn’t tell you WHO is watching, 2) privacy concerns, 3) it would underreport poorer families….

      • Amanda says:

        Receiver tracking through DirectTV, Dish, and other providers with an opt out clause for the paranoid. Counting online viewers.

        • Amanda says:

          Ok, This posted right as you said, don’t say this! There could be a partnership with cable and satellite providers that allows users to use a monitoring service where maybe they choose who’s watching each show with a quick pop up or something. Are we even sure Nielsen is “randomly” choosing the poorer faimiles anyway? I get that they need demographic info for advertising, but just being able to see the total number of viewers would be a greater improvement over Nielsen and it’s less than 5000 viewers!

          • izzybella says:

            Amanda, I don’t have cable or satellite because it’s a luxury I have decided I can do without in order to stay within my means. That means my voice wouldn’t matter here and neither would any other people who don’t have cable or satellite, and believe me, there are most of us than you might realize.

          • Jeri Jo says:

            The families are chosen randomly by address by market area. Whether you are black, white, brown, rich, poor, young, old are NOT factors in how a “family” is chosen. Once your address is pulled “out of a hat” so to speak, they set up a meeting with you and they cannot refuse to have you as their “family” after meeting you…YOU can refuse, as it is an ALL volunteer program. I found the time I spent as a Nielsen family to be VERY enjoyable! IF you get a FED EX letter from them, do NOT throw it away as “spam”….meet with them and see if you would enjoy being apart of TV history!!

        • Sara says:

          That still doesn’t say WHO is watching. That would just say that someone in that household watched. It doesn’t tell give the research company the information on who watched the program (age, gender, etc). It is my understanding (and I have never been a Nielson viewer, so I could be very wrong) that there are things that the viewers fill out (diaries, as some previous posters wrote?) that give that information and the shows viewed.

          • For those of us chumps who still use an over the air antenna (mostly), they can embed something in the signal that communicates back to the source through the internet. A lot of new TVs can use wifi and cable boxes can do this easily. Users can fill out a survey about their demographics or opt out. Make it so.

          • Jeri Jo says:

            Every TV in the home is attached to a “people meter” with the age & gender of every household member attached to a numbered button. When the TV is turned on, the meter box comes on as well and flashes letting you know that you need to “log in” everyone who is watching. Every 42 min the meter will flash and you will need to confirm that you are still watching. This gives them accurate info as to who is watching what at what time. Also, there are extra buttons for guests, so when you have a “Walking Dead season premiere” party, you can log everyone in who is watching! It really was the coolest thing for me & my family, as we are BIG TV FANS!!

          • It does monitor who is watching and what age. Every
            time someone comes in the room to watch they have there on button or number to press. when visitors come in and watch they is also away to count them. Very accurate.

      • Avery says:

        If we consider monitoring with the cable companies, a way to measure Who is watching could be with a usar system similar to the one on Netflix, the profile is filled or the viewer in question, and that way they could monitor who and what is this person watching.

      • Tess says:

        Perhaps they should stop concerning themselves so much with who within the household is watching a particular show and just whether a show is being watched – I mean, one tv could be on with 5 people watching of varying demos, it still counts as one tv tuned in to a given program right?
        Surely cable and satellite providers who have customers connected to a box of some sort can keep track of what is being watched via those boxes – that info can be provided like a survey without having to be giving out specifics to each individual household (surely Nielsen has info on who they’re monitoring too) and maybe the cable and satellite providers could ask people if they want to “opt out” or something for those concerned with privacy.
        And as for poorer families – does anyone believe they are being adequately represented via the current system? I mean, if Nielsen is only measuring certain large market cities and not the rest of the vast suburban and rural areas of the country, then there are rather large masses of the population who could be watching shows that are getting cancelled because they don’t appeal to those select few in those metered cities. That hardly seems representative of the masses either.

      • ATB says:

        1. Separate user accounts on each device. No it’s not as specific as what Nielsen has but it would be close.
        2. Who cares what shows are being monitored? Netflix & Amazon are certainly tracking everything people stream and no one seems to care. How would it be any different?
        3. Controversial answer: do the companies buying ads truly care about those “poorer families”? No. They don’t. And that’s what the whole thing is for anyway. Demos for ad revenue.

        People watching online illegally will never be able to be counted, so we have to get a system in place that monitors paid subscribers.

        I don’t entirely believe Nielsen should be “done away with” – I just think all cable & satellite should be monitored. Nielsen data could still be used in the final totals – just not as the majority. I really fail to see the privacy concern. Everything we do online is monitored in one way or another. Haven’t most people accepted this reality? If having my cable box monitor the shows I watch means they have a greater chance of NOT getting cancelled, then I’m all for it. Online petitions do nothing. So for anyone that’s had a favorite show cancelled, the point sells itself.

        • Jackson says:

          I love how everyone on here complains that Neilsen needs to count more people because their small sample can’t possibly represent everyone and then in the very same breath say lets track cable because who cares about poor people. Hypocrisy much.

        • Alex says:

          “. I really fail to see the privacy concern. Everything we do online is monitored in one way or another. Haven’t most people accepted this reality? If having my cable box monitor the shows I watch means they have a greater chance of NOT getting cancelled, then I’m all for it. Online petitions do nothing. So for anyone that’s had a favorite show cancelled, the point sells itself.”

          Oh, so since you aren’t bothered by privacy concerns, no one else should be? How idiotic of you. I sure as hell do NOT want any creepy monitoring and reporting of my TV viewing without my express consent. If you are fine with having no privacy, yay for you. But don’t you have the nerve to push your attitude on others.

      • Bill P says:

        Sorry Matt, but how many people watch LIVE TV any more? I don’t even have cable. i watch HULU and Netflix. Live TV is for sporting events and news. Everything is going on demand, ratings should apply as well.

        • Alex says:

          Yeah, because your viewing patterns are the “right” ones and the only ones that should be monitored. So what if you don’t have cable? A HUGE number of people still do and will continue to for a VERY long time.

      • Kelly says:


      • Dennis says:

        This is the 2nd time I have seen you use this comment in an article about the Nielsen rating system, but I have never seen you outline an idea of your own or what other media people think is a good idea.
        Privacy is always a concern, but are you going to tell us that a cable company like comcast doesn’t share user info with NBC, USA, MSNBC and whatever else they own. I hate that we have very little privacy left in our lives, but almost everything we do is tracked by someone. We go online and receive personalized ads based on our browsing habits. How long before that starts to happening on TV? Also the younger the demographic is, the less they seem to care about privacy.
        The poor would be underrepresented Is a myth, in my opinion. I have lived in both big and small cities in the Midwest. I have had rich and poor friends. I have known people who barely make enough each month as well as friends on welfare. I have to say, the last time I saw a home without cable, it was the the mid-1990’s.
        Finally, to the Nielsen people doubling up on more Nielsen boxes in NY and CA because they so represent the rest of the country. Maybe it’s time to look at placing their meters in several average size cities in all 50 states. Costly yes, worth it definitely…I believe that in another 20 years, if not sooner, the TV landscape will be completely different and the Nielsen Ratings obsolete.

        Dennis P Bergerson

      • Julia says:

        You point out that it would under report poorer families what about under reporting people that do not live in big cities. There are 31 markets so at best only 31 one states have a say in what is being played on tv, this assumes that all 31 markets are in different states and I have a feeling they are not. So there are big parts of the country that are being left out of the reporting for ratings. This is 2014 there has to be a batter way then the current one. As for privacy concerns are we to believe that our tv providers are not collecting data off our boxes as to what, when, and how we watch tv. It would be easy to put in an opt out feature that people can set.

      • Sarahliz says:

        Because poor families are definitely being represented right now. Seeing as how they only report people who live in big cities. And who have devices capable of recording/reporting the data. Sorry, that excuse doesn’t fly. Also, they can’t tell who’s watching anyway. 3 TVs in the house, everyone shares. How the hell do they KNOW who’s watching. Oh, and what about observer bias? You’ll behave and watch differently if you know you’re being watched. They could still randomly sample non-cable subscribers, randomly install Nielsen recorders into cable boxes, and allow for an opt out from your cable provider. Cable provider collects the ages of everyone in the home and who is most likely to watch each box. Problem solved.

    • Boiler says:

      System needs to be reviewed in general and also the importance of who they are reviewing. Many more older folks in US now and younger rarely watch TV in “normal” way. Or someone needs to switch from Nielsen to a research company that gets it

      • Katherine215 says:

        Until television is primarily paid for via something other than ad revenue (commercials), the target demographic is still going to stand. Advertisers don’t believe the purchasing habits of older Americans can be changed, hence the value placed on the demo ratings. I think a larger sample should be used than what Nielsen is doing. THe increase of 3200 homes over the next two years is great, but they’re still only counting < 30,000 homes in the US, which is absurdly small.

        • Sarahliz says:

          Unfortunately the purchasing habits of most people can’t be changed. People develop brand loyalty from a very young age, and unless they are actively seeking a new product, advertising does very little if nothing to sway them. That’s why they spend so much damn money on it. But it doesn’t matter what age you are, you’ll always need insurance, you’ll always want junk food, you’ll always hate car commercials. If you grew up with a TV in your home you’ve always watched the same kind of commercials. I’ve never seen anything change in 20 years, except that during daytime game shows they advertise for geriatric products and after midnight they advertise for Trojan products and male enhancement. That’s the only difference I’ve ever seen. With all the product placement in shows these days, how many companies can actually say they’ve seen increased revenue from commercials airing during shows that reach the majority of the demographic on Thursdays at 8 as opposed to shows that reach the 50-69 age group at the same time? It’s unfortunate that broadcast shows have to live off advertising revenue, but at the end of the day no one watches commercials anymore anyway. They change the channel or fast forward. So it doesn’t matter what’s being advertised, if only 3000 people are being sampled and seeing the damn things anyway.

  3. nate says:

    i still dont understand how this b.s. works

    • Drew says:

      The way it works is as follows. you wear the meter all day. It picks up radio and tv signals that are around you. You can be in the middle of a field and whether you know it or not there ARE radio and tv signals around. All the meter does is it is able to tell what is being watched or listned to. As far as privacy you have nothing to worry about.

  4. Alana says:

    How does one become a Nielsen household?

  5. dee says:

    I just finished a week of filling out one of their diaries. I found that I watched less TV that week, because I didn’t want to fill out the thing. Probably not the result they were looking for.

  6. Seems to me that if you are watching something via cable, it should be easily trackable which shows are being watched and which aren’t… and if you watch something online (through legal means, of course), that’s even easier to track. I don’t understand the need for Nielsen.

    …though that said, I filled out one of their booklets for a week a while back, and was paid like $20 to do it. So, if it’s going to exist, feel free to hit me up, Nielsen!

  7. brian says:

    So, adding more Nielsen “families” in New York City and LA is their answer to see what the rest of the country wants to watch? I could understand adding more homes in flyover country… I’m also more interested to know how they measure DVR (aka +7 View Thru), Streaming and what happens when you are watching live and then pause to grab a drink or something or better yet how do they measure when you save a bunch of episodes up to marathon through.

    I just have to ask is there a better way to measure this so good shows don’t get cancelled when they are viewed on other mediums.

    Team TVLine, how do you think TV should be measured?

    • Mark says:

      I have challenged them to debate this subject with many valid points against people in the know so has many many other people on this forum and as of yet no come back or feedback from team tvline. Which is sad as I’m also fed up of seeing great shows being cancelled because they don’t fit the neisen mold this system is broken it has been for years. And adding a few extra homes in NY and LA isn’t going to sort this out, if anything its going to make it worse as what is necessarily hot property in NY and LA may not be middle America’s cup of tea but their voice by the sounds of things like the +50 age group /16 and 17 age group don’t count any more….

      • RUCookie says:

        You guys did see the info in the second paragraph:

        Among the Local People Meter markets — that is, households that report viewing habits in part by using electronic “people meters” — Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Miami and Denver will see an increase of 200 homes this year, while Charlotte, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and Phoenix will each add 200 homes in 2015.

        Those are a lot of places outside of NYC and LA (our most populous metro centers)

        • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

          “You guys did see the info in the second paragraph:”
          Apparently not.

          • Angela says:

            Makes you wonder why you bother writing all this stuff out in these articles sometimes, huh? Reading comprehension doesn’t appear to be some people’s strong suit.

      • Tommy says:

        Nielsen is not broken. The current business process of Broadcast Television is broken. Stop blaming the messenger. Nielsen collects A LOT of information, it’s not their fault that advertisers (and thus TV networks) only care about live viewing and a particular demo.

        • chrisnine11 says:

          Very true. I was just going to post that the networks care about WHO (meaning their age mainly) is watching and not that lots of people are just watching in general. Bottom line for the most part is if the desired age group isn’t watching they don’t care.

        • Jillian says:

          When you only survey about 20,000 households to generalize over 300 million American citizens, your system is inaccurate to say the least. They’re not collecting ENOUGH information.

      • Sara says:

        They aren’t just increasing in LA and NYC. The article also listed 13 other cities that are getting significant increases. Is it enough? Probably not, but it is something.

    • Et al. says:

      That argument is invalid. Cows and corn don’t watch television. The higher population areas should have larger sample bases. We already let the flyover choose the American Idol each year. I think that’s quite enough.

      • Angela says:

        …uh…yeah, there’s plenty more in the “flyover” areas beyond cows and corn. And the coasts love “American Idol” as much as the middle part of the country does.
        Try not to stereotype an entire section of the country, thanks.

  8. Lindsey says:

    I once got an invitation in the mail to be a Nielsen family. We were very excited to have our viewings count and tried to do it (I think there was a number to call or something), but we couldn’t get through. It was weird. They really need to come up with a better system that takes online viewings into account

    • klown says:

      Unless the online viewing involves the full advertisements, they realistically shouldn’t be taken into account.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:


        • Dragonfly says:

          Every time you watch the episode online there are at least 3 advert breaks when you watch on the network sites, I recently watched Once upon a Time and it started with 2 advertisements. Next time I am watching online I will count more accurately. But there are ways to measure. Especially when someone has cable box or is connected to the internet. Someone pointed out that even if the box will record that the program was watched it is not clear who was watching it in the household. With Nielsen is it 100% to know who is watching what?

          • liz says:

            and the fact that when you watch online, you’re staring at an ad for Febreeze the full time as well if you don’t do full-screen-browser (which I don’t – cause I multitask). I’m fine with looking at it, but it should be counted in

          • Nielsenmama says:

            Yes, Nielsen know who is watching what. They have the ages of everyone in the house and we are all assigned a number on the box.

          • Jillian says:

   airs 5 in a row, as does some cable sites. Even Hulu which is a paid service plays anywhere from 2-4 ads during each break.

          • John NYC says:

            But unless they’re the identical ads to the broadcast the billing would be different. Buying things for broadcasts are going to be based on broadcasts marketing info while the sales price for the online adverts would be the online numbers….

  9. ClearlyDemented says:

    I’m in Charlotte. Any chance I can retroactively get Surviving Jack put back on the air?

  10. Bob Smith says:

    Nielsen needs to “rethink” this approach and begin working “with” cable and satellite tv companies by gathering information from the boxes already in homes. This would provide a more detailed assessment of what people watch by including millions of homes instead of less than 10,000 homes across the US. “Sampling” doesn’t do anything but ignore a majority of America, including rural areas.

    • John NYC says:

      I suspect they already do to a degree, I’ve certainly read comments that appear to reflect TiVo gathering data and selling it. (anyplace you see an “Optin” sort of phrasing in a privacy statement or status that’s a signal the data is getting shopped I expect.

  11. MattArmando says:

    This is outstanding news for all people… and most importantly, the future of TV, in general.

    Maybe we’ll get to see the TRUE number HOW MANY viewers actually watch every program.

    • Ally Oop says:

      My guess is that one or more of the networks stated their dissatisfaction with the Nielson method and now Nielson is making a last-ditch effort to survive by increasing households. I suspect we maybe have two more years at the most before network tv abandons the current system. Ratings this year fell exponentially across the board. Next year who knows how far ratings will fall. How low can they go before the nets can’t continue on as they have? Look at all the shows that fell below 1 demo point.

  12. Angela says:

    My family was a Nielsen family back when I was a kid. I don’t know how much we helped, ’cause it was pretty much Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, and whatever shows we liked to watch on the networks for the most part in our house back then, but still…:).
    I’m not even close to being an expert on how all this stuff works, but hopefully these changes can help better reflect who watches what on TV and prove beneficial for shows in general. I don’t argue there’s probably other methods out there that we may not have even discovered yet that would be more immediate and more advanced, but for the time being, any attempted improvements to the current model are always good.

  13. Claudia says:

    The Nielson system is hard to understand because it is based on mathematical principles dealing with random sample sizes, etc. There will never be any way to accurately count everyone who watches a show – how would you account for a group of say 12 who are watching a football game together at a sports bar, or the person who has the TV on all day for noise, but doesn’t actually watch anything. And what about those who can’t afford cable, satellite, or Netflix? The Nielsons are not perfect, but I have yet to hear about any other way to do this better. And it’s not hard to point fingers at the Nielsons when your favorite show is cancelled, because, of course if it’s something I like, then surely everyone else likes it (stated as one who has rarely liked the programs over the years that were big in the ratings).

    • mable says:

      Networks are starting to look at social media cues for example Twitter to gauge popularity. In this age of technology there should be something more accurate than a sample size of 1300 homes for a city of 8 million.

      • Alpha says:

        Nielsen’s purpose is not to measure how popular a show is. It’s purpose is to measure how many people are watching commercials. Social media doesn’t really play into it right now. It’s can give a network bragging rights but it doesn’t bring any more money to the table.

        • jenna says:

          social media can be a great way to track audiences and since its traditionally more popular with younger audiences it would be an interesting way to track the target demographic. E.g. if users are ‘live tweeting’ during a show its almost guaranteed that they are also watching the commercials

          • c-mo says:

            They’re not watching the commercials…and I mean no disrespect with this comment…they don’t have the attention span to watch for that long, they’re paying attention to whatever is on their mobile devices.

          • joe says:

            likewise you’ll never ‘really’ be able to tell if someone is watching the commercials. They could just as easily be going to the washroom or getting a snack

        • Emma Woodhouse says:

          “Its purpose is to measure how many people are watching commercials.” I wish I could upvote this.

        • Alex says:

          THANK YOU. You’re one of the few sensible posters here.

    • Angela says:

      And it’s not hard to point fingers at the Nielsons when your favorite show is cancelled, because, of course if it’s something I like, then surely everyone else likes it (stated as one who has rarely liked the programs over the years that were big in the ratings).
      This. Sure, it sucks if your favorite program gets canceled, but sometimes there are reasons that don’t involve Nielson families and their taste in television as to why a show gets cancelled, too. If anything, I’d say bad programming decisions by network executives has played a bigger role in that issue than anything else, especially in recent years. There’s many shows that I’ve never seen because they got little to no promotion that I could see on TV or the network moved them all over the place and I was never sure when the freaking thing would actually air.
      And as awesome as some shows are, some of them just aren’t meant to last very long, either. It sucks when a show you like ends, no question, especially if you feel it didn’t get a fair chance at gaining an audience, but lots of factors go into that decision.

      • c-mo says:

        Trophy Wife and Enlisted are prime examples of your very accurate theory.

        • Angela says:

          Great examples right there, indeed. I’m particularly sorry I didn’t get the opportunity to check out “Enlisted”, given all the good things I heard about it…just as it was getting pulled.

  14. brycealexander says:

    I just don’t get it. Using numbers straight from, say, DirecTV seems much more logical to me.

    • Alpha says:

      Viewing information from DirectTV or other cable or satellite systems does not include all the demographic information that Nielsen provides. All that additional information is what advertisers really crave. Also, just going by that information will only tell if a television is tuned to a particular channel. It can’t tell how many people are watching the program (or if any one at all is watching).

  15. Ginger says:

    I just mailed back my weeks worth of vieing diaries. Second time in 2 years. Last year they sent them to me in July…I don’t watch tv in July!!!! I do all streaming during the summers (except for Longmire…) … This time at least they sent them during some finales.
    What I truly don’ understand – or rather I do but wish it were different – is why demographics and ads and ages and locations should matter. Eyeballs should matter and be enough to keep a good show on the air. But that would make sense…

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      How much do they pay nowadays? When I was a young’un. It was a crisp $2 bill.

      • Katie Riccio says:

        When I filled ours out last spring, they paid us $20. I did it with the hope that they would set us up as a Neilson family. It was a lot of work and so out of date. It was all paper based. The least they could do is put a link online!

        • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

          Dayum, that’s shoe money!

          • Elyse says:

            a few months ago I got $5 for the initial survey and $30 for the week long TV diary.

          • Nielsenmama says:

            Here’s the scoop- the primary person in the house gets 75 bucks every 6 mos and if you have kids they get to pick something out of a catalog every 6 mos too. Thats when they check all the boxes, computers, etc. At the end of the 2 year period I think you get more money but not sure how much. Didn’t do it for the money, wanted to help keep my shows on the air. :)

      • B says:

        I had one just a couple of weeks ago as well. They included a $1 bill. Yippee! I’m curious about someone getting $20 — longer period? Mine was just a week.

        • Gus T.T. Showbiz says:

          I’ve done it a few times and have gotten $40 every time. Two twenty dollar bills came in the envelope with their book that I had to fill out. Maybe the amount of money has to do with where you live? I’m out in the middle of nowhere so maybe there were a lot fewer of us so there was more money to go around?

          • B says:

            Wow, I feel cheated! One dollar vs. $20 or $40? I can’t see valid justification for that. It took just as much of my time as anyone’s to fill out that booklet.

      • Arie says:

        I’m a Nielsen Family and we were paid $300 CASH upfront, followed by a $300 “thank you gift” check, plus $20 a month for our first year and $25/month for our last year. Our 2-year contract ends in August, which is sad. We can do their online tracking for an additional $20/month but I’d rather they not know what sites I’m going to *cough* lol.

        • stephanie says:

          what do you mean by contract? my family was chosen, i asked if i had to sign anything and was told no, that i would receive cash then a check as you say you received the monthly pay outs. i do plan on moving in about 3 months they asked if i was moving in the next two… answer is no so i said now but i’m wondering what that contract stated.. would i have to pay the gift checks and cash back if i canceled my home?

    • Grey says:

      They claim that males 18-49 have the real buying power (I don’t believe that to be entirely true, or at least not as much as it once was). The reason being they aren’t brand loyal yet.

      According to Nielsen older people and females tend to find a brand that works for them and stick with it. For example, if you are female and you determine in your early twenties that Honda cars work best for you, you will pretty much stick with Honda/Acura cars your whole life. Males 18-49 on the other hand are apparently really wishy-washy consumers, more easily swayed and constantly want to try the latest and greatest. There’s more money to be made off of them in the short term than any other group in the long term.

      So, the 18-49 age group is coveted by advertisers who are willing to pay top dollar for ad time *for shows that attract large segments* of that group. That’s why regardless of how good a show may be in terms of artistic quality if it ain’t attracting that male 18-49 crowd TV executives drop it like a hot rock and cancel it. They will still claim they are only interested in quality programming, blah, blah, blah but the truth is money talks. If a show about wet paint drying on a wall drew a 4.0 rating with only 5 million viewing households it would get a double season renewal. However, if a quality drama with complex characters has a huge audience of let’s say 8 million viewing households *but* is only getting a 1.0 rating in that 18-49 demo forget about it. It will get yanked and cancelled before you can blink an eye.

  16. Miriam Maurer says:

    The 18 to 49 Demo crap has got to go…news flash…I am 57…and I have a computer…and a new 5th generation iPod…and I have a lot more disposible cash than younger people…so we should be as important as they are.

    • Jen says:

      As I understand it he reason that advertisers don’t care about you is that they think you already established buying habits. Having a computer and an iPod and money doesn’t mean you are going to switch company you buy from. They think that you’ll buy stuff, but buying stuff that goes along with patterns that you’ve already set up. This means their advertisements won’t sway you as much and that’s what they care about.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:


        • Boiler says:

          Correct but very wrong!!!

          • Angela says:

            Yeah, I’ve never agreed with the logic behind advertising, either. Yes, some people do fit that stereotype, but others don’t, and it sucks that they still think everyone, or most everyone, of a certain age group will behave a certain way. Add in the fact that most people skip the ads when they can when watching TV shows back on DVR and whatnot and it makes the assumptions even more amusing.
            But it is what it is.

          • John NYC says:

            Only if market research results contradicted: and given the money involved if the research showed flaws there’d be changes pronto!

          • Alex says:

            Advertisers spend a LOT of time and money analyzing consumer spending. They do tons of studies. I’d say they know much more about the topic than you do.

          • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

            Ha — ya think? :)

      • Ally Oop says:

        You are partially right. Younger viewers are also more important because they are tougher to capture, now more than ever.

  17. They see their days are numbered DVR, OnDemand, Internet, etc. Shows are often canceled for ‘lack of ratings’, many times subsequently have uproars on-line. Brycealexander is not far from the truth. Once cable companies realize there is a profit to be made, they’ll offer to monitor viewing habits of some.
    Example: 3 member family, Mom, 36, Dad, 42, Son 15. Each get a code they enter when viewing alone, another for viewing as a family; all of which the family gets 5% off their bill. Then the cable/sat. service sells that monitoring information to Madison Ave.

  18. valeriel40 says:

    We need better models to capture viewer numbers, not an upgrade on an antiquated system.

  19. Sarah says:

    I wonder if Nielsen will add any in Indianapolis? I also wonder if the increase will help Bones at all? I know it’s an older show, but I still want it to do well, especially knowing it will up against TNF (then TBBT) and Grey’s next season.

  20. Scott Johnston says:

    Its still a rubbish system. Adding more households helps but it can still be manipulated by carefully picking the households used. Some time back I was randomly selected to provide a TV viewing diary for a year. After I sent in the first one I got a letter back saying they didn’t need me anymore because “my viewing habits were not representative of the wider population”. And they still seem to be using that sort of approach even now.

    • Colleen says:

      So, they reject people whose “viewing habits are not representative of the wider population”, but then shows with low Nielsen numbers get cancelled?

  21. Britt says:

    They could monitor cable/satellite, but you wouldn’t know the demographics (said below). They also would need a way to track viewers who don’t have cable or satellite. And since people keep dropping cable because of their high prices, they would be in trouble again and would have to come up with a new strategy.

  22. Pat says:

    I did the Nielsen diaries years ago. It really was ridiculous having to fill out my viewing habits for a week. Also, it was done during the summer months and there were times I did not watch TV. I just think that because there are so many channels on cable now, this rating system seems so obsolete in this day and age. Increasing boxes to be placed in more homes around the country still doesn’t take into account all the millions who are watching TV, plus DVR’s and On Demand.

  23. Tommy says:

    I think you will all be rather shocked to see that increased meters still bring about similar results. Sure, a show that normally gets low ratings may see an increase but it’s highly likely that other shows will see an increase too. It’s all relative. In the end, all the shows that were at the top of the ratings pile will probably still be there and all the shows that were near the bottom will remain so.

  24. This is such a sham. These people are not real. The company makes up all their numbers.

    • Angela says:

      Who aren’t real? The Nielson families? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of very real people in this comment section sharing their very real stories about their experiences as Nielson families.

    • MCT71 says:

      Yep. I’d say I’m pretty real. We’ve been a Nielsen family.Those that know the system have pretty much covered how it works. I understand that viewing shows on your DVR also counts, if it is within 7 days of the original airing.

      In recruiting volunteers they mirror the demographics of the area in placing devices in terms of family size, ethnicity, age, number in household, etc. As previously said, the cable companies can only report that the show is being watched, but not who is watching and they don’t collect the extensive demographic information that Nielsen does.

  25. Nielsenmama says:

    We are a Nielsen family and have been for almost 2 years. It is done randomly. They literally came to our door. You don’t do a diary. Their boxes are hooked up to your TV’s and it records whoever is watching and what they are watching. Every 45 min you have to put yourself back in, in case someone has left the room or has come in.

  26. Ally Oop says:

    Increasing the amount of Nielson viewers won’t do much. What they need to do is figure out how to monetize DVR viewing. My suggestion is to cease scheduling shows and instead make all shows on demand and require viewers to watch an interactive commercial prior to the start of each show. P.S. posting comments on iPhone is now very difficult as I can’t scroll to reread any of my comments to edit or zoom out on the screen.

  27. Ant says:

    I had Nielsen offer to setup in my house. I agreed and when the tech came in, he said that he didn’t want to do it because of the the multiple device TVs we had.

  28. Et al. says:

    If I’m reading this right – an increase of 2700 homes represents a 33% increase in sample size. That really puts into perspective what a ridiculously small group of people controls what shows survive and fail.

  29. Carla Krae says:

    Never had the box, but I’d love to. My preference are always grossly underreported each season.

  30. Babybop says:

    They need to come to college campuses and just let us sign up. We are the target demo after all…

  31. Janene says:

    We just sent in our diaries for 3 televisions in our 5 person household. It asked our ages, how many hours we worked and if anyone was Spanish speaking. It wanted to know the source (cable , dish , etc.
    For this we were paid $5 in crisp $1 bills.
    We charted what shows we watched, if it was live or recorded. It was interesting to see our viewing habits, that’s for sure. It was series finale week so our 3 televisions were quite busy.
    At the end of the week we dropped it into the mail. There ought to be a better way than the paper diary but since it needed to be with the individual TV’s we just left it with the remote.

  32. Elyse says:

    A few months back Nielson sent me $30 to fill out a week long TV diary… I figured they would come back and ask if I would have a Nielson box since I watch a crap ton of TV but they didn’t :(

  33. Nielsenmama says:

    Ant- you got a terrible tech. They are supposed to set up and work with everything you have. Our guy has hooked up our wii on one tv and xbox on another. Plus we have dish on all our TV’s and they have to hook up Nielsen to your computers too. They really do monitor all your viewing except iPad and iPhones. Supposedly that is coming soon.

  34. mari johnson says:

    If we were chosen more shows would not be canceled.

  35. Susan says:

    I may be a nerd, but bear with me here. There are 317 million people in this country. Let’s estimate that 4 people live in a household. That leaves 79,250,000 households. Let’s estimate that only half of households even have a TV. That leaves 39,625,000 households remaining. Of those 39,625,000 households, only 6,250 will have a Nielsen box. That is 0.000157729%. As a person who is constantly disappointed with not only program cancellations, but the choices available to me to begin with… I am absolutely outraged that this tiny fragment of the population is deciding what I get to watch.

    • RyanC says:

      I agree with the principle, but disagree with the assumption that only half of all families own a TV. Household ownership of televisions in the US is around 97% which is about114,000,000 households.

    • Alex says:

      So… you obviously never took a statistics class in school and don’t understand the basics of statistical sampling. :(

      • drhenning says:

        People complaining about the ratings are the same that complain about polling during elections and look how right those polls are 90-95% of the time ( which is what confidence % means)… The Nielsen box also measures when a household uses the TV for DVR use as well as other devices like game systems or RoKU… It doesn’t measure exactly what you are watching on ROKU.. As pointed out, technology has made things tougher for advertisers to measure stuff and this is but one way… Things like those online 2 screen stuff that networks do helps measure how many folks may be watching a non-sports show live…

  36. LeeAnna Kirkwood says:

    I like to have one of the devices

  37. Jillian says:

    This increase really doesn’t help much. The sample size is still FAR too small to generalize what millions of viewers are watching and it is only in select markets. What about the thousands of other towns in the US. It’s a shame that advertisers base their facts on an outdated, inaccurate ratings system.

  38. Jerry says:

    Sorry guys I’m not sure how Nielsen differs from election polling since I don’t live in US. I’m quite sure election polls have an even smaller sample size, and they seem to be quite accurate with the final results, so maybe Nielsen with its bigger sample size should be accurate too.

  39. DavidSask says:

    America already has voiced forever how they hate the outdated viewing tracking system so why is this being done and celebrated. Get better technology and pay people to get that moving forward and implement it fast!

  40. Z says:

    The personal meter system is, IMO anyway, much better than the box, and it’s what’s primarily used in Canada. You carry the meter with you, it picks up a signal in TV and radio, and you collect points (1 point for every x amount of time the meter’s active–we did the math to figure out the accrual rate, but I don’t recall). You put the meter in a charger at night and it transmits and tells you how many points you earned. Every household member gets their own meter and we all get cheques every month based on our point accrual (it’s usually around $12 a month). They also do draws… I think monthly, that you’re eligible for if you pass a points threshold, and they do special ones on holidays when people are likely inclined to forget/not bother with their meter (these are for $100 and $500 prizes–I won once).

    It’s easy and straightforward. Just remember to put the meter in your pocket and watch all your regular TV. Oh, and we had to fill out a booklet at the start of this all, just about demographics, occupation, what TV service we have, etc, and renew that every year on our anniversary. That always comes with $20 and we each get to pick a gift card reward… which I believe we also get at 6 month intervals.

  41. Rebecca Parker says:

    I volunteer!

  42. I don’t understand why Nielsen don’t just get the NSA to do the viewing figures for them.

    • Elyse says:

      saw them quote you in the TV Qs article and it make me laugh out loud because it’s so true! great comment :)

  43. Mel says:

    Here’s an idea – come up with a better system than having 25,000 people decide what 50 Million people get to watch. Most under-25s don’t sit down and watch a show “live”. You’re lucky to even get them to watch an actual television.

  44. Dorothy says:

    We were an Arbitron family for almost two years. We wore meters for tv and radio ratings. It was fun. We miss the little extra incentive checks but not wearing the meters.

  45. Dennis says:

    I wish someone could do a study on the Nielsen Families accuracy

  46. J.Norman says:

    I guess this is an effort by Neilsen to try to appease the people who don’t understand the concept of scientific sampling and analysis.

    To hear some people talk, you would think that

    1) Neilsen does no research on who receives the metered boxes and simply drops them off in peoples driveways with ‘some assembly required’ instructions and

    2) Advertisers get together once a quarter or so and ask:

    “well , we’re spending xxx to receive ratings promises of yyy . Anyone know how how our sales revenues are doing in relation to the advertising money we’re spending?

    A 30% increase in sample size increase makes for great press, but, in reality, will only improve the accuracy / reliability of the ratings by less than 2-3%..
    There is an exponential line that goes up very, very slowly once you get to say…90% accuracy factor. After that, the cost of improving the accuracy goes skyrocketing in relation to the value it returns in the form of obtaining that 2-3% accuracy improvement.

    Is the current Neilsen system correct down to a “gnat’s eyelash”?
    No, of course it isn’t, but it is totally in line with the “close enough for government work: criteria.

    In other words, over an expanded period ranging from a few shows to an entire season a shows true ratings will be accuracy disclosed . It’s true rating may be off by a tenth – maybe .2 over a year, but that is almost meaningless.

    In short, under the current Neilsen system, If your show is being shown (by Neilsen) to be getting a 1.6 rating, It is NOT in reality getting a 2.6 rating or a 4.2. . It is at most getting a 1.8

    For many, I would suggest taking a few courses in Quantitative Methods or Statistics.

    One final point, though. For those of you who feel that Neilsen is flawed, you need to remember one thing.
    If (Neilsen) is as flawed as you think, then you have to recognize and accept that it can be flawed HIGH as well as low.
    That means your 1.6 show is being treated generously and is really getting a 1.4.

  47. Mikael says:

    I really don’t care if my viewing habits are being monitored. I would actually PREFER to be counted among the ratings. I don’t think it’s really an invasion of privacy unless you’re watching something that you don’t want anyone to know about…

  48. Pia says:

    What do I have to do to get one?

  49. Nicole says:

    As someone who actually works in survey research, I’m less worried about the sample size than specific biases. Not everyone who watches tv is in a “family” or a “house” and assuming the viewing habits are the same for people in apartments, condos, colleges dorms, etc. is very problematic.

  50. Grey says:

    About damn time!! They need to do *something* to try to improve their monitoring because frankly, I really don’t think they have a clue what the majority of US households are watching! It was just reported in the news this week that baby-boomer “Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care:” but Nielsen and TV executives are still coveting the male 18-49 demo to determine the fate of TV shows! WTF?! The Nielsen system is more than antiquated! It’s just ridiculous.