Big Apple Count
First ratings from Nielsen's new meters show drops
By Steve McClellan -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/13/2004 8:00:00 PM
Nielsen Media Research's new local people meter can't seem to escape controversy. After weeks of protest over the device, a minority-group task force was formed last week to vet its results, and the largest Hispanic broadcaster sued to stop Nielsen from rolling it out further.
A look at the performance of the local people meter (LPM) in the first few nights in New York, the nation's largest TV market, shows why the device is attracting discord. In direct comparison with the traditional Nielsen measurement—the diary method—the LPM showed disturbing ratings decreases for all the New York TV stations in some time periods.
Univision-owned WTXV's late newscast posted ratings decreases of 30% or more in the first nights after Nielsen Media Research went "live" with the New York LPM.
Even before the launch on June 3, Univision had complained loudly that Nielsen's new ratings service would hurt its ad sales. Based on initial results in New York and local test data, Univision sued in Los Angeles to stop Nielsen from launching the service there on July 8. Univision charges that the LPM samples undercount young Hispanic-Americans and large Hispanic families.
Nielsen says the Univision suit has no merit and it will fight the charges in court.
Besides Univision, the two Fox stations in the market—WWOR and WNYW—logged some of the steepest rating drops under the new system. Ratings are down 10%-40% in key revenue-producing time periods, compared with the outgoing rating system, based on hand-written diaries.
Tribune's WPIX recorded some big declines as well, while WABC, WCBS, and WNBC saw smaller drops.
The impact was less severe for cable. LPM test data for the month of May shows that 12 cable networks seen in New York had higher prime time ratings compared with the old method, while 44 showed small declines. The biggest gainers were Lifetime and Court TV; ESPN and Nickelodeon were the two biggest losers.
But cable did see some benefit from the new way audiences are measured. Thirty-nine networks showed gains in the attractive adults 18-49 demographic, while just four were down in it. Tim Brooks, executive vice president of research at Lifetime, says the LPM tends to indicate lower household ratings but higher viewing levels among specific demographics. "And cable generally benefits because the people meter captures all the viewing, not just what the diary keepers remember to put down."
Still, he was "disappointed" that Nielsen decided to go ahead with LPM in New York despite all the questions about the reliability of the household sample there.
Separately last week, Nielsen announced the formation of an industry task force that will advise it on how to ensure that its LPM household samples fully represent the ethnic and racial composition of each market, an issue raised by Fox and some minority groups in New York. Former Illinois Congresswoman Cardiss Collins will serve as the chairperson of the new task force.
For broadcasters, Fox especially, the day the LPM launched in New York was a rude awakening. Fox-owned WWOR's 10 p.m. newscast scored a 2.4 household rating and a 4 share, down 40% from the rating indicated by the NSI.
Fox execs worry that the declines could cost the company tens of millions of dollars in lost ad revenue, more if the LPM expands to the top 10 TV markets as planned. That's why Fox parent News Corp. has waged an aggressive campaign to delay the LPM.
Agency executives say advertisers are concerned that ad dollars will be buying fewer viewers. A 40% ratings drop in local news is "cause for alarm," says Janice Finkel Greene, director of local broadcast strategy for ad-buying giant Initiative.
Despite the flaws, firms are currently making ad buys based on the LPM numbers in New York. "I think everybody knows that it's fundamentally a more accurate audience-measurement service," says Maribeth Papuga, director of local broadcast for big New York ad buyer MediaVest. "It does change the way you buy the market."
|New York Ratings Take a Hit|
|Difference in results, LPM vs. diary, June 3|
|Early Fringe||Access||Prime Time||Late News||Late Night||Total Day|
|Notes: Early fringe = 5-7 p.m. Access = 7-8 p.m. Prime time = 8-11 p.m. Late news = 10-11 p.m. for WWOR, WNYW, and WPIX; 11-11:30 p.m. for WABC, WCBS, WNBC, WXTV, and WNJU. Total day = 6 a.m.-2 a.m.
NC = No change
Source: Nielsen Media Research
No related content found.
No Top Articles
Digital Rapids provides market-leading software and hardware solutions, technology and expertise for transforming live and on-demand video to reach wider audiences on the latest viewing platforms more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably. Empowering applications from..more