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Nielsen Ratings - Measuring, /Share and Total Viewers, “Sweeps” and

television meters information diaries

Nielsen Ratings are gathered by the extensive use of detailed surveys or by the use of Set Meters. With the use of surveys, viewers of varying demographics keep written records or diaries of the television programs they watch throughout the day. The Set Meters are small devices that connect with each television in a number of selected homes. These meters collect the viewing habits of every home and send the information directly to Nielsen. The information is sent to a “Home Unit” that is connected to a phone line much like a modem. The information collected by the Set Meters lets market researchers study television viewing habits each minute. This allows researchers to monitor when viewers change the channel or turn off their television. Nielsen also utilizes individual reporting devices, named People meters, which allow Nielsen to filter household viewing information based on a number of demographics. In 2005, Nielsen started to use digital video recordings such as TiVo to record information. Networks still refuse to use these results in the calculation of ad rates, much to the dismay of advertisers.

Nielsen Ratings/Share and Total Viewers

Nielsen Ratings are reported after ranking the percentage of viewers for each show at any one time. In September of 2006, it was estimated that there are 111 million households with television in the USA. One national ratings point represents one-percent or 1,102,000 households for the 2006-2007 season. Share is a mock-up of the amount of television sets in use that are tuned into any one television show. These numbers are tallied as ratings points. Nielsen Research also provides stats in total amount of viewers, as well as specific demographics. Ad rates are influenced not only by the total number of viewers, but by specific demographics like age, sex, area, and economic class. Young viewers are considered to be the most attractive for a number of products, while older, wealthier audiences are considered the most attractive for other products. In some cases, female audiences are wanted over male audiences. Although television ratings are not an exact science, they are a very powerful force in determining what programs will appear on air.

“Sweeps” and Nielsen Ratings

A lot of the ratings system consists of completing ratings diaries, usually for a week, in exchange for a fee. These diaries are very important during the four sweeps periods conducted in the throughout the year. This is done in an attempt to measure small, local market audiences. The term “sweep” is a reference to how the journals were released by Nielsen Media when the ratings were first calculated. These diaries are sent to households and processed by starting out on the East Coast and sweeping across the United States.

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