Nielsen Ratings

Nielsen Ratings

Nielsen Ratings are audience measurement systems developed by Nielsen Media Research to determine the audience size and composition of television programming. Nielsen operates in over 100 countries and was founded in 1923.

The system has been updated and modified extensively since it was developed in the early 1940s by Arthur Nielsen. It has since been the primary source of audience measurement information in the television industry around the world. Since television as a business makes money by selling audiences to advertisers, the Nielsen Television Ratings are the single most important element in determining advertising rates, schedules, and program content Fact|date=March 2008.

The company is part of the Nielsen Company, formerly known as VNU and owned by a consortium of private equity firms including Blackstone Group, KKR and Carlyle Group. Its US production operations are located in its Brooker Creek Global Technology and Information Center in Oldsmar, Florida. Its UK operations are based in Oxford.

Measuring ratings

Nielsen Television Ratings are gathered by one of two ways; by extensive use of surveys, where viewers of various demographics are asked to keep a written record (called a diary) of the television programming they watch throughout the day and evening, or by the use of "Set Meters", which are small devices connected to every television in selected homes. These devices gather the viewing habits of the home and transmit the information nightly to Nielsen through a "Home Unit" connected to a phone line. Set Meter information allows market researchers to study television viewing habits on a minute to minute basis, seeing the exact moment viewers change channels or turn off their TV. In addition to this technology, the implementation of individual viewer reporting devices (called people meters) allow the company to separate household viewing information into various demographic groups. In 2005, Nielsen began measuring the usage of digital video recordings (TiVo, for example) and initial results indicate that time-shifted viewing will have a significant impact on television ratings. The networks are not yet figuring these new results into their ad rates at the resistance of advertisers. [cite news
first = Gary
last = Levin
title = Playback time for Nielsens
publisher = USA Today
page = 1D
date = 2006-10-12
accessdate = 2006-10-21

Ratings/share and total viewers

The most commonly cited Nielsen results are reported in two measurements: ratings points and share, usually reported as (ratings points/share). As of August 27, 2007, there are an estimated 112.8 million television households in the United States. A single national ratings point represents one percent of the total number, or 1,128,000 households for the 2006-07 season. Share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the program.

For example, Nielsen may report a show as receiving a 9.2/15 during its broadcast, meaning that on average 9.2 percent of households were tuned in at any given moment (i.e. how many televisions in the country were in use at that time). Additionally, 15 percent of all televisions in use at the time were tuned into this program (i.e. how many of those televisions were watching this particular show). Nielsen re-estimates the number of households each August for the upcoming television season.

Nielsen Media Research also provides statistics on estimated total number of individual viewers, and on specific demographics. Advertising rates are influenced not only by the total number of viewers, but also by particular demographics, such as age, sex, economic class, and area. Younger viewers are considered more attractive for many products, whereas in some cases older and wealthier audiences are desired, or female audiences are desired over males.

Because ratings are based on samples, it is possible for shows to get 0.0 share, despite having an audience; CNBC talk show "McEnroe" was one notable example. [cite web
last = de Moraes
first = Lisa
title = Where's the Love? CNBC Scrambles to Woo Viewers for 'McEnroe'
date = 2004-08-13
accessdate = 2007-06-08
] Another example is The CW show CW Now, which received two 0.0 ratings in the same season.

The term is also used by Arbitron for describing the percentage listening to a particular radio station out of all those listening to radio in the market area. cite web|url= |title=Terms for the Trade |accessdate=2008-04-29 |work=Arbitron ]

Commercial ratings

Nielsen provides viewership data calculated as the average viewership for only the commercial time within the program. This “Commercial Ratings” first became available on May 31, 2007. Additionally, Nielsen provides different “streams” of this data in order to take into consideration delayed viewing (DVR) data, at any interval up to seven days. [cite web
last = Holmeys
first = Gary
title = Nielsen Announces Schedule And Plan For Commercial-Minute Ratings
date = 2006-01-16
accessdate = 2007-07-02
] C3 was the metric launched in 2007. C3 refers to the ratings for average commercial minutes in live programming plus three days of DVR playback. [cite web
last = Lafayette
first = Jon
title = Commercial Ratings Shuffle the Deck
url =
date = 2007-10-07
accessdate = 2008-05-13


Much of the ratings system, however, still consists of the completion by viewers of ratings diaries, in which a viewer records his or her viewing habits, generally for a week, in exchange for being advanced a nominal amount (up to $30 in the United States). These diaries play an especially important role during the four sweeps periods conducted in February, May, July and November in an attempt to measure smaller local market audiences in markets that are not covered by People Meter samples already. (Other, smaller sweeps are conducted through the year in the markets large enough to be measured by non-demographic meters, but not large enough to be measured by the demographic meters (people meters).

The term "sweeps" has two meanings. One refers to how the diaries were handled by Nielsen Media when the ratings were first produced: They are mailed to the households and processed by starting on the East Coast and "sweeping" across the nation. The other refers to television programming during the months of November, February, May and (of lesser importance) July, in which eagerly anticipated programs are deliberately scheduled in order to boost television ratings.
Television networks and other programmers make unusual efforts to attract additional viewers during these periods, including broadcasting mostly original programming as opposed to repeats, showing more special broadcasts, and including special content in programming such as guest stars, controversial and unexpected plots or topics, extended episodes, finales, and increased competition in advertising. Even news programs are often involved, broadcasting especially controversial or titillating investigative reports and promotions. For this reason, the "sweeps" system of national ratings has been criticized as not representative of typical programming, and encouraging an increase in content of concern such as violence and explicit sexuality. Outside of these peak periods it is more common to see reruns of television programs.


See also

*List of television stations in North America by media market
*List of most-watched television broadcasts
*Appreciation Index


Further reading

* Anthony Bianco and Ronald Grover. " [ How Nielsen Stood Up to Murdoch] " "BusinessWeek." September 20, 2004.

External links

* [ Nielsen Media Research website]
**Nielsen Media: [ FAQs - About the "Sweeps"]
* [ How Does Sweeps Week Work?] (February 16, 2004)
* [ Nielsen Global Technology and Information Center website]
* [ Nielsen Media Research: Everyone Counts]
* [ Information on Nielsen's Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement Initiative] .

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