BET Takes Comic Shot at Nielsen

Updated: Skit says few African Americans in ratings sample

BET took time out during its upfront presentation in Chicago to take a shot at the way Nielsen measures African-American viewers.

BET parent Viacom has been expressing dissatisfaction with Nielsen, particularly with the way viewers who watch its shows on digital devices aren’t included in ratings used to sell commercial time to advertisers. Audience measurement has been raised as an issue at upfront presentations made by several of its networks.

At the upfront in Chicago, BET took its turn as ad sales chief Louis Carr introduced Nelson Nielsen, a character played by a local comedian, who said he was one black guy who has a Nielsen meter in his house.

“BET Networks asked me to come here today to talk a little bit about what it’s like to be part of the small percentage of the viewing audience who determine which shows live or which shows dies,” he said, adding that he’s part of an even smaller group the represents black viewership.

“You want to know what it’s like? It’s damn tiring,” he said. “I haven’t slept in two years. Do you have any idea what type of pressure is one me? I mean knowing that if my eyes aren’t set on the right channel at any given time, at any given moment, only God and Kanye West knows what’s really going to happen.”

The comedian said one time, he fell asleep on the remote, which put the TV on a Two and a Half Men marathon. The result was "that piece of crap became the number one show in America. Man I really feel bad about bad.”

Another time, his super cut the power while he was watching The Game on the CW. “Because I wasn’t watching, the show got cancelled. Thank God BET picked it up.”

Getting down to business, the name said “you would think in this day and age, I could watch TV on my cell phone, on my tablet and have it be counted. No. Not so Much. Thanks a lot Nielsen. I can’t leave my damn house. So Nielsen, if you’re listening, on behalf of all African-American television lovers everywhere — to them I am all black television viewers — please fix the damn system.”

Nielsen officials don’t take even comedic criticism lightly these days, when asked for comment.

“While this was done in jest as part of a comedic sketch, we take representation very seriously at Nielsen and go to great lengths to ensure that we have accurate representation of the entire audience,” Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior VP, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen, said in a statement. “We work closely with our clients, including BET, as well as our African American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American External Advisory Councils to ensure our data represents the entire market.”

In another statement, Deborah Gray-Young-, cochair of Nielsen’s External African American Advisory Council, said: “The External African American Advisory Council has worked hand in glove with Nielsen for years to ensure sound methodology and representative data.  These efforts are ongoing and as strong as ever.”

Nielsen also pointed out that Matthew Barnhill, executive VP of corporate market research at BET, is a longtime member of the advisory council.

A spokeswoman for the network said: "The BET upfront is a time to showcase our upcoming programming slate and talent, our innovative client offerings and to also reflect generally on the state of the industry."

The spokeswoman added that the skit "is a comedic take on an industry-wide concern that content consumption continues to outpace measurement. Measurement is top-of-mind this upfront season. 'Too Much For One Man' is a parody that uses humor to reflect on how this resonates with our audience. "