Nielsen Confuses Digital-Cable Universes


Due to what Nielsen Media Research is describing as human error, the ratings company inadvertently gave out some wrong information on digital-cable viewers for one of its qualitative reports to advertiser clients.

The so-called MarketBreaks reports for two demos, which were incorrect from November to January, provide lifestyle information, including income, education, car ownership, cable and satellite viewership, etc.

Nielsen inadvertently switched the universes for demos "digital cable with pay" and "digital cable without pay," so that viewership and subscriber universes for each were attributed to the other. The mistake was discovered by a client.

The MarketBreaks are a supplement to the daily ratings, which Nielsen says were not affected."The impact varies greatly in size and direction from program to program and half-hour to half-hour," Nielsen told clients.  "[You] should not use any Digital Cable data that they may have run in MarketBreaks for these dates [Nov. 1, 2004-Feb.2, 2005]."

Nielsen spokeswoman Karen Gyimesi said Nielsen would get a schedule for releasing the corrected numbers to clients by the middle of next week.

Critics of Nielsen grabbed onto the news to suggest some systemic failure at the ratings company, but Gyimesi called it a mistake that the company was apologizing for and taking the necessary steps to avoid a repeat.