Ratings issues cannot compare to the magnitude of problems in the relief effort in the Gulf Coast. That said, problems with the national sample could affect Nielsen clients.
Nielsen has yet to officially weigh in with clients on the impact that Hurricane Katrina will have on the national ratings sample, but studio ratings researchers expect it to be minimal, based on informal conversations they have had with the ratings service.
New Orleans ranks as the 43rd-largest U.S. market and accounts for 675,760 TV homes, or .617% of the country. Combined with three other smaller TV markets in the region devastated by the hurricane, it is believed more than 1.1 million TV households have been impacted, which represents about a full rating point nationally.
But since not everyone watches the same network shows, researchers estimate the most popular prime time programs in that region could see, at most, perhaps a half-point national ratings drop. That would mean tenths of a point trimmed off the prime time national sample, and hundredths in lesser dayparts.
During the period of Aug. 8-14, New Orleans had about 700 meters in use. Researchers guess that at least 80%, or 616, of those meters have been rendered inoperable.
Nielsen has told clients they plan to “weight” the sample to try to minimize the affect on ratings, so that if house A goes off line, house B would count for twice as much. Nielsen continues to show national ratings coverage for the networks on par with normal levels.
At least one station in New Orleans, NBC affiliate WDSU, has taken to broadcasting online for the time being. Because of residuals issues, the station needs to have production companies agree to let their shows be transmitted that way.
Nielsen officials could not be reached for comment at press time.