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Nielsen Struggles To Track Modern Viewing Habits 248

Posted by kdawson
from the watching-the-watchers dept.
RobotRunAmok writes "The Nielsen Company has been the principal entity tracking TV shows' popularity, and, by extension, their potential profitability. But as our media consumption practices change, some believe that Nielsen's methods have not kept pace. A new consortium including networks owned by NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, Viacom, CBS, Discovery, and Walt Disney — along with major advertisers — is calling for the creation of a new audience measurement service, and planning to solicit bids from outside firms by the fourth quarter of this year. Nielsen says they're not worried about so many of their customers ganging up on them, having just invested more than a billion dollars in research to stay modern. Except that today Nielsen announced they would pointedly not be adding weights to DVR households, and that adding weights for the presence of a personal computer or Internet access in under-represented households would provide 'no significant change or enhancement' to its national TV ratings sample. The pundits deride Nielsen's 'archaic' methodology and 'disco-era tactics,' but others scoff that such a consortium will only 'put the foxes in charge of the henhouse.' Stay tuned..."
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Nielsen Struggles To Track Modern Viewing Habits

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:27PM (#29190231)

    Seriously, is there anyone under the age of 40 who DOESN'T use a DVR anymore? And I don't mean the "I don't even *OWN* a TV!" snobs, I'm talking about average people. I can't imagine going back to watching live TV, and can't believe that Nielsen is still not taking me adequately into account. I think they do finally factor in some DVR's now (contrary to the summary), but only one per household and only under weirdly strict conditions (like having to watch the show within 24 hrs. of its airing).

    Okay, I can understand them not weighing us DVR watchers as much as grandma watching her stories on live TV (since we're a lot less likely to actually watch the ads that the Nielsens are all about). But to only count us under a few conditions is to ignore the reality that we're in the 21st century (some of us are even watching *gasp* HD content, which Nielsen is also still undervaluing).

    Come on, I'm tired of seeing crap network shows that my great-aunt watches in the top ten and the shows *I* like getting shitcanned for "low ratings." I would even be willing to "opt-in" to a DVR viewing log system if it meant that my viewing habits could save a few decent shows.

    • Come on, I'm tired of seeing crap network shows that my great-aunt watches in the top ten and the shows *I* like getting shitcanned for "low ratings." I would even be willing to "opt-in" to a DVR viewing log system if it meant that my viewing habits could save a few decent shows.

      Preach it, brother. ABC is especially notorious about coming up with interesting new shows (that probably appeal to the 18-34 audience that has almost universally adopted DVRs), and then canceling them because the numbers appear

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RawJoe (712281)
        Even is there was a DVR-viewing log, would it save your shows? Ok, you watch it on DVR, but chances are you don't watch the ads. An advertiser would be foolish to pay as much for an ad if actual "ad viewership" isn't all that great. So the show is less profitable for ABC, despite how cool it is, and is canned.
        • by jayme0227 (1558821) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:55PM (#29191523) Journal

          One thing to consider is that advertisers are already adapting to the use of DVRs. Yes, they still have commercials, but there is also a considerable amount of product placement. Consider the NBC show "Chuck" [nbc.com] and its Subway product placement. Before the "Save Chuck" campaign even started, Subway maintained that this was their best product placement/commercial deal in years. [chucktv.net] It was well placed and quite amusing.

          And guess who saw it. It wasn't just the old fogies who refuse to move into the modern age, but also the younger generation with our newfangled DVRs and PCs.

          This is why having ALL of the ratings is important. Just because DVRs exclude most of the commercials, that doesn't mean that these viewers aren't important to the show's advertisers. The advertisers would just have to push into new ways of advertising outside of the standard commercial.

          PS. I'll gladly sacrifice 2 minutes an episode to gain the 58 minutes of hilarity that is Chuck.

          PPS. I know that the episode isn't really an hour long and that a bunch of time is cut out for commercials, but that's not the point.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Danse (1026)
            The SyFy channel show Eureka has done a lot of product placement as well. It's obvious, but they handle it either in a low-key or tongue-in-cheek manner. Last season I think it was Degree anti-perspirant as the major sponsor. Right now it seems to be Subaru. I can deal with this kind of placement as long as they don't get too ridiculous about it and it doesn't start having a negative impact on the show.
            • by I'm not really here (1304615) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @04:39PM (#29192255)
              I want a step better. I want a web interfaced TV show, where at any point, I can pause the show, hover over something I see that I like, and have it tell me who makes it, and if I click on it, have it take me to a shopping site to buy the product. Now that would be effective product placement. Like that jacket? Buy it with a click. Think Fargo's car is cool? Click on it to find your local dealer. Think that maternity shirt is adorable? Order one for your wife within seconds if you enable Amazon's one click show based interface.

              Want to just watch the show? Hey, it's commercial free, brought to you by Amazon.com - enjoy!

              Think of the money that could be made on these types of impulse purchases?!
      • by GigG (887839)
        A couple of years ago I was a participent in a Nielsen/TiVo pilot project where I agreed to let Nielsen have access to my viewing logs. After about 6 months they sent me a coffee mug and said thanks.
    • by D Ninja (825055)

      Along with this, I don't even have my television hooked up. I only subscribe to the most basic cable because it makes my internet cheaper (which is retarded - my internet should be cheaper without any TV at all). All the television I do watch is via Hulu or through a broadcaster's website. So, they aren't counting me correctly as well.

      The convenience of watching what I want, when I want is too good for me to maintain a full-time television connection. I still wait for the day when I can pay for only spe

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      DVR? I don't think they ever took the VCR into account, let alone a DVR.

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        I have a DVR but don't use it since the Super VHS VCR provides better quality video. And yes Nielsen DOES measure "same day viewing" to include people who watch using DVRs. Nielsen also monitors internet viewing, and reports those stats as a separate number.

        I don't understand what the TV companies are whining about - Nielsen's already monitoring these new media forms.

        • by Danse (1026)

          And yes Nielsen DOES measure "same day viewing" to include people who watch using DVRs.

          Same day viewing? Does that really matter? I record lots of shows and rarely watch them the same day they air. Hell, I'm watching shows that are 3 weeks old right now since I just got back from vacation.

    • Uh, I know I am outside the age range you describe, but to be honest with you, I have never actually *seen* a DVR, or know anyone that uses one. And I am a serious TV watcher - at least 8 hours a day.

      Everyone either watches stuff when it's on (and most shows are repeated 10 times a week anyway - I can want Law and Order:CI 5 times a day, and 3 of them will be the same episode, so who needs to record it?), or they watch on the computer. DVR is sort of an in-between solution.

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:59PM (#29190693) Journal
        I don't mean to insult you or anything. You could be an outlier. I am not talking about you in particular, but in general about people who watch TV 8 hours a day.

        But I think most people who watch TV 8 hours a day will have pretty small disposable income. For a family of four, going from 25K a year income to 50K a year income, the total income ratio is just 2, but the disposable income ratio is going to be something like 4 or even 8. The profit margins are huge in the disposable income expenditure. When it comes to bread, milk and gas, the profit margins are very tight. That means, it is better to snag 1 hour of a family with large income than to fight to get 8 hours from a low wage earning family.

        • No insult perceived.

                It may be a good point, but the people I am referring to (and myself) have plenty of disposable income. DVRs just seem to be a "in between" solution to the problem that I haven't seen a lot of people use. That may indeed be an outlier statistically, but it would surprise me a bit.

                Brett

          • I could see someone who watches 8 hours of TV a day not seeing a need for a DVR.

            I love having a DVR because without one I could never keep up with shows. I certainly love to watch TV, but I watch it on my schedule and not its. So, if something comes up, I go.

            But if you are getting in 8 hours a day of TV time, well, you're available to watch it when its on.
    • by Duradin (1261418) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:44PM (#29190483)

      If your viewing habits include skipping all (or timeshifting beyond a couple days) the commercials that pay for the show I don't see why they should give DVR viewers much weight.

      It's the eyeballs on commercials that count, not how many people like the show (but not enough to watch it realtime or to watch the commercials). If you like the show but don't want to watch it when it is broadcast watch it off the company's site. Then at least you'll get counted in a way that matters.

      • by profplump (309017)

        I don't see why watching a show live means I like it more than watching it delayed, or how a week delay reduces the effectiveness of (most) advertisements. Frankly I'd only watch a show in realtime if I *didn't* like it, because without the ability to rewind and pause I'm likely to miss at least some of the show.

        And while streaming flash video is a handy alternative it's not at all like having a real recording. For one thing it requires using your computer, which in most cases is not hooked up to the same d

        • I believe the statement about not likign the show enough to watch it live went off course from his main concept: That people that watch the shows through DVR's are skipping the ads, while peopel who watch it live are watching them (or at least having them played while they do other things).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Duradin (1261418)

          It doesn't matter if you like the show.

          What matters is that you are seeing the ads. If you're watching it as it is broadcast you can't skip past the commercials. You can leave the room (which is why they crank the volume up for ads) or you can turn the channel (good luck since most other channels will be on a commercial break). So you sit there and watch the ads (that pay for the show) or you somehow respond to the ads (turning the channel, leaving the room).

          Let's say there's a new show on Fox with Nathan F

      • That might be true if programming content was also ad-free, but billions of dollars are spent on product placement so that you see that make of car and the logo on it while watching CSI in case you missed it in the commercial. I've worked in TV production and the efforts to get the product placed in the show are huge. We used to have to make sure every can of the drink which sponsored us was facing with the logo toward the camera at all times and the actors had to do their best not to obscure it when drinki
    • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:46PM (#29190507) Homepage

      Come on, I'm tired of seeing crap network shows that my great-aunt watches in the top ten and the shows *I* like getting shitcanned for "low ratings." I would even be willing to "opt-in" to a DVR viewing log system if it meant that my viewing habits could save a few decent shows.

      Nielsen is NOT about how many people watch a show. It's about how many people watch the COMMERCIALS. DVR folks generally skip past those. People who watch broadcast TV cannot. Although they can get up and make a sandwich, or whatever.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Nielsen is NOT about how many people watch a show. It's about how many people watch the COMMERCIALS. DVR folks generally skip past those. People who watch broadcast TV cannot. Although they can get up and make a sandwich, or whatever.

        True.

        But just because they do not focus on who is using a DVR does not mean that the big cable companies have no data to sell.

        The cable boxes can be polled remotely to determine what channel it is tuned to.

        A comcast or a quest can and does make a tidy profit by simply adding a little software to their head end and selling the anonymous aggregate data.

        Further, they can poll before a commercial, poll after a commercial and tell you how many people switched away during the commercial, which speaks to the quali

        • by GIL_Dude (850471)
          Interesting - thanks for that as I didn't know it before. So this means that comcast is reporting my TiVo changing the channels and recording "TiVo suggestions", most of which I delete, being too lazy to hit the "thumbs down" button on all of them. And because of the way Comedy Central publishes their guide info, the TiVo can't tell the difference between first-run and re-runs of the Daily Show. So it tends to record them all day. Comcast must be reporting a serious overage on those (understandably that may
        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "The cable boxes can be polled remotely to determine what channel it is tuned to."

          What cable box?!?!?

          My DVR setup needs no cable box...

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:51PM (#29190587) Journal

      Let me first say I totally agree with your point. But really, I think this is about something different than what most of us logically think it should be about.

      I suspect the networks and advertisers are interested, primarily, in who is tuning in to the provided programming in "real time". Even if they find out that a certain TV series is wildly popular with people who recorded it to watch later? They may still be most fixated on the numbers who thought it was worth interrupting their day or night to watch it, as soon as it hit the airwaves.

      I'm not in this industry, but I can see how an advertiser would place a lot of value on knowing their commercial is being viewed in a prompt manner by viewers. (EG. If you want to run an ad talking about a special sale "this weekend only!" at your local sandwich shop or car dealership, the ad is rendered useless to anyone who "gets around to watching it" on their DVR the following week.)

    • Why pay for Sat or Cable when I can watch Hulu for free? Before that I bought seasons on iTunes. Honestly, for the 3 - 4 TV shows I liked to watch, it was cheaper to buy from iTunes than paying for cable for a year. Much cheaper.

    • DVR, is that like an Torrents, NZBs and an HTPC?

      After getting that of which we do not speak I'm never going back to torrents. I can Max out my Cable connection have a 30 minute show in a few minutes, an hour show in twice that.

      HellaNZB is... just wow.

      "Hey we missed the Daily Sow last night."
      "Ok, it'll be here in a few, lets go get drinks"
      ssh htpc.local;mplayer The.DailyShow.....avi

      It's not use friendly yet but I like it better than XBMC.

      Plus with VDPAU I can watch movies in all their HDTV glory.

    • Hey, I *actually* don't even own a TV for a decade, you insensitive clod!

      And so do my friends! ;)

    • by Reece400 (584378)
      Does bittorrent count as a DVR? I don't even subscibe to cable or satilite. Having my PC download what I want (mostly by RSS) is much more convenient.
    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      I'd be careful about opting in with the DVR. I can see producers seeing heavy DVR numbers and canceling shows because of poor ad reception (fast forward) or deciding that those shows need the most product placements. The crew of firefly exclusively uses Downy fabric softener...
    • The only reason I don't have a DVR is because I cannot find one with the features I want: ability to burn shows to disc, ability to add my own HDD, not allowing content to be erased by the networks or expire and my choice of subscription services for listings. For now I just watch everything "online" since no one wants to manufacture a device like that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "The only reason I don't have a DVR is because I cannot find one with the features I want: ability to burn shows to disc, ability to add my own HDD, not allowing content to be erased by the networks or expire and my choice of subscription services for listings. For now I just watch everything "online" since no one wants to manufacture a device like that."

        MythTV [mythtv.org]...it takes a bit of patience and effort, but, well worth it in the in and will do what you want.

        If you google around a bit, I believe you can fin

    • by Joe Tie. (567096)
      Same here. I don't know anyone who watches live tv anymore. And I'm not even talking about especially geeky people. Everyone from the graphic designers to bank tellers uses some way of going around the live viewing process.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by piltdownman84 (853358)
      DVR's are still out of the financial reach off many people. Maybe its because i'm fresh out of uni and most of my friends got useless degrees, but in my group of friends I'm the only one with a PVR. Shaw up here in Western Canada still wants $600 for a HD-PVR, which is out of reach of alot of people.

      Even with a PVR I find myself watching alot of live television for two reasons. One, you really need to watch sports live. Two, my cable signal is garbage and if watching live a sudden drop out for a second
  • Maybe they can justify Bittorrent "profit" losses by using download statistics to provide ratings. Nielsen is just an extrapolation anyways. At least for certain markets they could save a ton of money on this research.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Surye (580125)
      Also, add in the other forms of digital distribution, and digital cable, can't the source providers just collect their own data?
    • Its an extrapolation sure, but you shouldn't dismiss it because of that. It is a statistically sound extrapolation.

  • Bad headline? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:29PM (#29190253) Journal
    The headline is inaccurate, as the story is more about how Nielsen isn't struggling to track modern viewing habits.
    • One wonders: are they arrogant, or just ignorant?

      I'm not at all surprised that they are laying back and enjoying incumbency, rather than bothering with hard work; but not even pretending seems a bit odd.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        One wonders: are they arrogant, or just ignorant?

        Merely efficient. Why spend money to update your model when there's no effective competition? Bear in mind that their customers are advertising executives.

        Mature companies spend ~15% of their budget on advertising. That's a given. All they care about is that the marketing department make a token effort to not completely waste that budget. And how does an advertising executive show that they're spending their budget effectively? No, it's not increased co

    • They sent a friend of mine a booklet and asked him to fill it in. To me that's a waste of time and space.

      If they asked me to track my surfing habits, I would explain that I spend all of my time on NY Times Culture, no time at all on pR0n sites nor slashdot.
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:33PM (#29190293)
    At least for my viewing habits. I maybe consistently watch maybe 1-2 shows live each week. Throw in a few hours of channel browsing, usually flipping between Discovery Channel, History Channel, Food Network, NatGeo, SciFi (SyFy), or Military Channel. That said, the shows I really watch, I am recording in HD on my custom built Home Theater PC (HTPC) for watching at my leisure, on my own schedule. It might be a week or two later before I watch a show, but I do watch them. And Neilson doesn't even count me. Probably one of the reasons why shows like Futurama were cut in the fist place, only to finally be put back into production from the out-cry and DVD sales numbers (which told them that Neilson's ratings for the show was complete utter BS).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Nielson doesn't count anybody that they haven't contracted to keep a diary of their viewing habits.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Correct me if I'm wrong but don't they have an agreement with TiVo to see the viewing data that TiVo collects?

        • And as I said, I don't use a Tivo, but a custom built DVR system... And I know I am not the only one out there who does it this way. Tivo is nice and good, but I still don't have control over my recordings with it. I can't make a DVD of the show, for instance, with a Tivo. You can't even transfer it to a computer in order to make the DVD there. So I said screw it with Tivo, and built my own solution, including three, 200 disk DL-DVD burner jukeboxes to easily store/archive anything that I really want to kee
  • You'd think that Nielsen would be more willing to compromise on the DVR issue, since all the "big spending" demographic groups use them heavily.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:37PM (#29190367) Homepage Journal

    Stay tuned

    Should have read "don't touch that dial!"

    Damn kids, get off my lawn!

    • "don't touch that dial!"

      I wonder what's on the other channel.
      *clunk, clunk, clunk* [adjusts rabbit ears]

      You know, ever since June 12 I Love Lucy has looked really staticy.

  • The media companies have a vested interest in getting the best audience data they can, so I'd say the "foxes...henhouse" argument is flawed in this case.

    On a tangent - normally I watch shows on my Tivo, but lately I've used Hulu a few times to watch shows that aren't currently running "on the air". I'll tell you, it's reminded me of why I hate commercials (since you can't skip Hulu's) - it's because they are, for the most part, insipid at best! I don't actually mind smart, engaging, or funny commercials - b

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597)

      The media companies have a vested interest in getting the best audience data they can, so I'd say the "foxes...henhouse" argument is flawed in this case.

      Not entirely true--- the media companies make no actual money from audience figures directly, only from advertising. So their vested interest is in getting the best-looking audience data that still looks plausible to advertisers. That's one reason advertisers want a 3rd party to collect the audience data, not the networks; it's less believable for a network

      • Right on - Neilson's customers really aren't the broadcasters or the producers. It is the advertisers. If the people paying have to rely on the broadcasters for figures without absolute transparency, well they won't pay. That is the card Neilson is playing here. They are independent and conservative in their estimates of audience. I bet they have real good models that track their current methodology to actual sales for major advertisers.

    • The media companies have a vested interest in getting the best audience data they can, so I'd say the "foxes...henhouse" argument is flawed in this case.

      The media companies have no such interest. The *customers* of the media companies (the advertisers) have that interest. The media companies have a vested interested in prying as much money as they can out of the advertisers. Which they can do by getting large audience numbers...or by forging large audience numbers. This is very much the foxes guarding t

    • Hulu is a nice idea but given the option I'll pay $2 an episode just not to watch ads, which as you are just insipid. Or like you say, use a DVR and just skip over commercials rapidly.

      If you drop extras on your cable (or cable TV altogether) and only watch a few shows, iTunes is still cheaper than cable. And I get to watch things at my own pace.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192) *

        $2/episode is a lot of money. If you watch an hour of TV a night(way below average), that's about 3 shows once you cut out the ad time. Even if you only do that on week nights, that's $30 a week or $120 a month. Way too much to spend on TV.

    • by Chabo (880571)

      How about a change back to the advertising format of Jack Benny? [youtube.com] :)

  • by BSDimwit (583028) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:40PM (#29190427)
    Maybe I am completely naive about this, but it doesn't seem like that hard of a problem to solve. Nielsen should work with cable box and satellite box manufactures/ and embed a viewing habit collection program to collect and send information back to whoever happens to care. This sound bad on the surface, but you make this program user enabled and if the user opts to share their viewing habits, that user's account is billed $5 less per month. The user, when opting in, would be presented with a screen that collects this household's demographic information such as family size, age and gender of the viewers etc, and once that is all setup, the user doesn't have to do anything but watch TV. No logs to keep, no extra boxes or contraptions to deal with. All of the current cable/satellite boxes already have the ability to send data back to mama (pay per view) so, whats a few more bytes of data.

    All in all, I think we would all benefit because the networks would know which shows no one cares about and could adjust their programming quicker and the advertisers would have a better idea of how to reach their target demographic and how much they should be paying to do so.

    Easy peasy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Heresy! Paying consumers $5/month for their personal data would give them the dangerous notion that they own it and have some right to control how it is used. Not to mention, any money not given to a shareholder or a C-level is money wasted.

      Some people.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:42PM (#29190447) Journal
    Nielsen and the Networks are joined at the hip. Nielsen measures the Networks, and the Networks get to charge advertisers according to the data so provided. No Networks? No Nielsen, because there would be no one to PAY Nielsen for their efforts.

    As a consequence, Nielsen will do whatever it can to stonewall, obfuscate, and generally hide the obvious: the day of Network hegemony is coming to a close.

    This doesn't mean the Networks are going to disappear. What it does mean is that the Network business model of delivering motion picture, and the techniques, methods, aesthetics, and processes developed to support that system, is no longer the complete hegemonic force it used to be. In 1948 there was radio and TV and movies and... ummmm... not much else. Today there is broadcast TV, Cable TV, online video, radio, satellite radio, computer games, game consoles, Web2.0 social networks and similar systems (viz 2nd life), podcasts, etc. etc. etc.

    The last actual advertisement I paid attention to AT ALL was last week (well, actually this morning - the girl on the billboard was f*cking hott. don't know what she was selling, but damn she was cute...) when I actually clicked on an advert to find out more about a certain brand of eReader (no, not the kindle...) So, that particular advert was successful, and it was online. Not on TV.

    That's the mindshare competition TV is dealing with, and what Nielsen refuses to deal with. TV could actually GROW in size, and still be increasingly marginalised by the explosion of all the other media.

    RS

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      don't know what she was selling, but damn she was cute...

      Really effective, wasn't it? I've noticed a lot of commercials like that, you remember the commercial but not the product. Good ads are like the Budweiser frog commercials, or about any Geico commercial. You remember the product.

      Others are even worse than your not remembering the product; the commercials are so bad you remember the commercial, the product, and studiously avoid actually buying the product because the ad pissed you off.

      Nielson isn't nee

      • mcGrew wrote:

        Others are even worse than your not remembering the product; the commercials are so bad you remember the commercial, the product, and studiously avoid actually buying the product because the ad pissed you off.

        No shit. When I was living in the States, I refused to eat at Carl's Junior because the commercials were so disgusting. It was usually some macho douchebag chowing down on a burger in slow motion making hideous slurping sounds and bits of it dripping on his shirt, and the announcer com

    • The last actual advertisement I paid attention to AT ALL was last week (well, actually this morning - the girl on the billboard was f*cking hott.
      You know, this is the future. As long as most DVRs make you at least skim the commercials, the best way for ads to get seen is for them to be something you want to watch, themselves. The easiest way is skin, of course, probably followed by food close-ups. The harder way is to develop a reputation for being entertaining, so you'll stop fast-forwarding when you se

  • by cashman73 (855518) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @02:42PM (#29190449) Journal
    I don't subscribe to cable, and don't really watch "over-the-air" TV, mostly because I don't really feel like fiddling with the antennae. I do watch lots of shows on Hulu [hulu.com], which is great from the network standpoint, because all they have to do is check website server logs and javascript reports to find out how many times someone is watching their show. The best part about it, is that they get an exact number of who's accessed the file, so there's no "sampling" of the population going on. Plus, they can sell ads based on an exact number. This is probably exactly why Hulu is so valuable to NBC and Fox (and now ABC).
    • I don't subscribe to cable, and don't really watch "over-the-air" TV, mostly because I don't really feel like fiddling with the antennae. I do watch lots of shows on Hulu [hulu.com], which is great from the network standpoint

      It's really great from their standpoint, all the way up to the point where people realize that you don't really need "networks" anymore when everyone is watching their shows on services like Hulu. Or at least you don't really need to worry about channels, what channel a show is on, what time it airs, or anything of that sort. The only purpose the channel will have is as an investor who puts up the money for a show to be produced, and anyone willing to put up enough money to produce a show will be able to

  • I am using an old Panasonic hard disk based DVR. It used to get the listings from TVGOS service and it was great. It needed no monthly subscriptions. The DVD recorder broke down and I find that there is no newer model! There is currently no DVR that requires no monthly fees that has at least some rudimentary capability to acquire the listings.

    Why isn't Panasonic introducing the next gen DVR? Is it possible to use TiVO without a monthly fee? Is it possible to edit clips in a TiVO and burn it off to a DVD

    • by athakur999 (44340)

      A Tivo without a subscription operates like old VCRs do. You can schedule recordings based on channel/time/duration. With a subscription, you can do it based on the name of the show instead.

    • by ericrost (1049312)

      mythtv. $20 a year for the listings from datadirect. Problem solved.

    • There is currently no DVR that requires no monthly fees that has at least some rudimentary capability to acquire the listings.

      Moxi [moxi.com]
      Windows Media Center [microsoft.com]
      Beyond TV [snapstream.com]
      SageTV [sagetv.com]
      MythTV [mythtv.org]

      None of these require any subscription for guide data or functionality, and the top two even have CableCard support so you can enjoy your HD content fix. TiVo Series2 units with DVD burners often come with a free "limited" subscription to TiVo's guide data, lacking the recommendations and ability to look more than three days in to the future IIRC.

  • Neither the networks (cable of otherwise) nor Neilson have any interest in accurate reporting. Accurate reporting would show that more and more people are using their DVRs to fast forward through pretty much all the commercials. And make no mistake, ratings are entirely and only about ratings, or, rather, the advertising rates that are based on ratings. Nothing else matters in the least. The day advertising rates are based on something else, we will never see another ratings list again.

    And everyone, even th

  • If Fox uses them to determine what shows to keep, either they are flawed, or the general population is retarded. Oh. Wait.

    Perhaps executives should troll popular websites and such to see what the viewers themselves have to say instead?

  • Most over-the-air television will be a think of the past. The external receivers / and servers for online viewing will measure this and Nielsen will be out of a job.

  • So...tv networks decide on their own what to show and no show. This effects me how, exactly? They'll still kill intelligent shows in favor of the window-licker specials, so why do I care?

  • VERY rarely do I watch live TV. Mostly, I TiVO everything, and fast forward through the commercials(I know advertisers don't want to hear that). I'm guessing I'm not alone and, contrary to Nielsen's thinking, we probably represent a statistically significant group.

    • by rtaylor (70602)

      ... and fast forward through the commercials ... we probably represent a statistically significant group.

      Which means Neilson SHOULD be ignoring you. Ratings for eyeballs watching commercials. Popularity of a show doesn't really mean anything to the advertisers (buyers of the numbers); it's the number of eyes on the advertisements that Neilson measures.

      • by dafz1 (604262)

        That's fine for the old method of TV advertising, the 30 second commercial. However, companies are getting wise to the impact product placement can have. See: "Chuck" and Five Dollar Footlong Mondays.

        I will sit through 30 second advertising breaks, like on-demand service or Hulu, however.

  • With digital (cable) TV here, the cable cos know what you are watching and how long.

    As a former TV repair tech, I've seen how Nielsen rigs sets to track users; It's not just a set-top box that tracks your channel, but is WAY more intrusive than that.
    Speaking of CRT TVs, they cut holes in the TV cabinet with leads from that box; these leads were wired to the V sync of the TV (don't know why, maybe verify the TV is on?) and the speakers (presumably to monitor volume and muting habits) and other places I c
  • by methano (519830) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:03PM (#29190741)
    We were a Nielsen family for a couple of years, up until about March. The amount of equipment that they attached to the TV and all the associated devices was staggering. We also had a TV in the bedroom that contained a DVD player. They took the TV apart and put lots of wires inside and a box on the outside. Some how they amanged to break a VCR during the installation, which they replaced. Both TVs in the house had a complete PC attached and ran a separate wireless network as well as connecting to the house phone lines. There were zillions of wires and lots of little boxes behind the TV. If the whole gamisch didn't call in daily to report on us for a day or two, the technician would schedule a visit and pound on his PC for an hour or so and then leave, satisfied that he's done something. Last March, during the Final Four, our old 1994 27" Sony Trinitron died and when I went shopping for a new TV, I decided that it was time for Nielsen to go. It was an interesting experience but I was very unimpressed with the complexity of their equipment. Now I know what a modern Rube Goldberg device looks like.
    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      Yep, my parents were a Nielson family for about 2 years (about a year ago). What Parent described is exactly correct. They physically take apart ALL of your TVs/cable boxes to tap into them. Just crazy.

  • extinction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:04PM (#29190749) Homepage

    Seems to me that Nielsen's metrics are just about useless these days.

    How many people actively watch television without a DVR? Wouldn't it be fairly easy for those DVRs to simply report back what shows you're watching? Yeah, I know, privacy and all that... But your average person is just renting it from their cable/dish provider and doesn't have much say in what the box does anyway.

    And folks watching television programs through on-line services like hulu or whatever can easily be tracked as well. Just record the number of views a given show's gotten - much like the counters on YouTube.

    Hell, even folks who don't use a DVR typically have some kind of cable/dish de-scrambler box... Those could report viewing habits as well.

    I certainly understand the appeal of having an impartial party responsible for the data... But it doesn't seem like this kind of data collection should be terribly difficult to do these days. Seems like the bigger challenge would be for viewers who don't want to participate to keep their usage private.

    • by gr8_phk (621180)

      How many people actively watch television without a DVR? Wouldn't it be fairly easy for those DVRs to simply report back what shows you're watching?

      Sure, but those guys aren't sharing the data with Neilsen. They probably don't want to share it with anyone or the popular channels will start claiming they need to get paid more for allowing their stuff to be carried by Cable/Sat companies.

  • In this day of digital broadcasting, why is Nielsen even relevant anymore? Can't cable companies track who is watching/DVR'ing what nowadays? Maybe not with over-the-air or satellite TV, but wouldn't the cable-only subscribers be a large enough sample to get a good idea of what people like on TV?
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:10PM (#29190831) Journal

    1. Do you like Science Fiction Stories? (Y/N)
    (Note to test processor, if the answer to question 1 is Y then discard survey immediately)

    2. Do you like Matlock and/or HeeHaw? (Y/N)
    (Note to test processor, if the answer to question 2 is N then discard survey immediately)

  • SURVEYS. Seriously, there would be very few reasons to lie about what you are watching but screening the survey participants can serve to limit that anyway. "When do you watch entertainment video? What were you watching during this time slot? What about the next?" The results should pay the same whether or not they even watched TV or other video entertainment at all leaving less incentive to be "inventive." So if I downloaded an episode of Weeds from The Pirate Bay and watched it this morning, that wo

  • from slashdot summary

    A new consortium including networks owned by NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, Viacom, CBS, Discovery, and Walt Disney â" along with major advertisers â" is calling for the creation of a new audience measurement service, and planning to solicit bids from outside firms by the fourth quarter of this year.

    from Deadline Hollywood Daily

    This sounds a lot like putting the foxes in charge of the hen house starting in September. The very idea that NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp/Fox, Viacom/MTV, CBS, Disney/ABC and Discovery are forming a consortium to challenge the dominant force in TV audience measurement gives rise to all sorts of scenarios.

    The first quote is excerpted from the slashdot summary and lists the parties participating in the consortium. The second quote is excerpted from an editorial at something called Deadline Hollywood Daily and is used to support an allegation that network executives will conspire to deliberately manipulate ratings. Note that the portrayal within the opinion piece omits two crucial facts: 1) The consortium includes advertisers. Advertisers presumably have a fi

  • Shouldn't he be doing Naked Gun 4.0 instead of that tracking thing?

  • From the inside... (Score:5, Informative)

    by goobenet (756437) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:28PM (#29191091)
    I used to work for Nielsen as a field rep. The way they gather the data is solid, but they have some serious issues with quality control. Meaning too much QC. If the power goes out in one section of the home, and the box is reset, the whole days viewing data is thrown out for the WHOLE household. They should just throw out that one viewing site. As for DVRs, the article fails to mention that Nielsen already accounts for DVRs, quite well I might add. It's live+7 days. Meaning that if you recorded tuesdays american idol, and didn't watch it til sunday, it still counts for tuesdays viewing data. How it deals with the nightly numbers was a bit above my pay grade, but i think the DVR equipment tracked the SID codes while it was recording.

    Biggest problem Nielsen really has is internet usage. They just (like 3 years ago) started tracking internet sites with their A2M2 program. The sample is very very small, about 1/5th the size of a TV sample. And a lot of the households are former TV sample homes. (they offer them the I2 program as the home comes out of the LPM sample) They also now are able to track distance family members, like kids at college are counted now away from home, but count as part of the household. (figure that one out if the parents live in Minneapolis, and the kid goes to school in LA?)

    As for people wondering why Nielsen is a viable company in this digital age? Simple demographics. Nielsen has every household members income, job title, where they work, shopping habits, age, etc. The cable company can find out what a person is watching through an STB, but doesn't have ANY of the demographics of the household. Nielsen using LPM systems can tell you EXACTLY who was watching what at a specific time, including the persons age, wine buying habits, primary shopper in the home or not, and what kind of car(year, make, model) they drive. (yes, these were the questions i had to ask households every 3 months) Obscene target audiences. Even with the old NSI sample, Nielsen had more data than the cable companies. (NSI is total household data, LPM is persons data)

    For those really wondering, Nielsen does track homes that pirate satellite/cable. They just don't show that number anywhere. :)
  • Or soon will be.

    Sell shows on Hulu, iTunes and what not. Let me buy X credits for Y dollars and let me pick what to watch. If i want commercial free i pay more, if i want HD i pay more. The more credits i buy the cheap each credit will be. Maybe "watching" commercials gives me credits.

    Timeslot becomes irrelevant - All you need to know is *ding* there is a new episode, my account knows to buy it and download it. Maybe premium subscribers get things first.

    Seasons becomes irrelevant - Just upload the next

  • Not that I can provide any of the details, but Nielson DOES (or at least DID) use DVR-watchers' data.

    How do I know?

    I'm a TiVo-Nielsen family. There was a specific enrollment they had about 5 years ago for Nielsen to use TiVo data from selected households, and I was chosen & signed-up. Now, what Nielsen and TiVo do with that information, if your Nielsen-family status is based on your location or your account or your physical DVR... or if Nielsen/TiVo are even still collecting the data -- I don't
  • And I thought I was bad at wielding metaphors.

  • About Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:29PM (#29193001)

    The studios have to do something sooner or later. The Nielsen way of tracking things sucks. For certain genres of television, the viewing habits of it's audience will tend to shift. If it shifts in a way not tracked by Nielsen, an otherwise good show may be canceled. Science fiction in particular is hurt here as it's audience tends to be the technophile crowd who are just not as likely to watch it broadcast at primetime.

    For example, Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which as a series I enjoyed far more than the latest movie) showed terrible Nielsen ratings, yet it's DVR numbers were good, it's foreign market numbers were excellent, and week after week it was among the top downloads at the iTunes store. It was doing good in other areas, just not in the over the air live audience arena, and so it got canned. Hopefully we'll see less of this as studios start tracking things more accurately.

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