Research executives from CBS and ESPN weighed in at Monday’s Radio and Television Research Council lunch on the decline of viewership among young men, offering their take on both the defection and Nielsen’s methods.
Noting the 7.7% drop in prime time viewing for men 18-34, CBS executive VP of research and planning David Poltrack said 40% of the drop can be explained by changes in Nielsen Media Research’s sample and methodology. The remaining audience loss, "is not extraordinary at all, it is very ordinary given the history of this audience," he said. He cited heavy out-of-home viewing as a contributing cause to the decline. He also noted that the demographic is skewed towards the younger viewers, who are light TV watchers.
ESPN research chief Artie Bulgrin expressed concern that Nielsen’s sample passes over homes with digital video recorders (DVRs) and other advanced technologies. "As much as 5% of the U.S. TV universe is bypassed," he said.
Nielsen’s Kevin Svenningsen, senior VP of sales and marketing, said his organization has been working nearly non-stop to "unravel" the reasons behind the declines. In an in-depth analysis released two weeks ago, Nielsen surmised that 40% of the fall-off was attributable to "the net effects of a number of methodological improvements" over the past year.
Svenningsen admitted the company needs to work on its out-of-home measurements. To that end, Nielsen is currently piloting two out-of-home measurements, one with college students and another in vacation homes.
Horizon Media’s research chief Brad Adgate, the agency representative on the panel, said young men are clearly pulled away from TV by video games, the Internet and DVDs. These new technologies may have a lasting impact. Adgate predicted that the behavior will continue.