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Nielsen Goes To College - Broadcasting & Cable

Nielsen Goes To College

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Nielsen Media Research says it will include college students in its national TV ratings early next year, marking the first time that the company is adding viewing outside the home to its ratings results.    

The company will measure viewing for students living in dorms, sorority and fraternity houses and off-campus apartments. Nielsen considers this to be “extended home” viewing, since participants are members of Nielsen households that have moved away for college.

Nielsen has been testing its college student ratings for two years with the support of major broadcast and cable networks, including The WB, CBS, Fox, MTV Networks, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting.  

Early results show that networks could pick up significant viewership with the added college students. In the 2004-05 school year, college students living away from home watched an average of 24.3 hours of TV per week, Nielsen says. That heavy consumption could result in as much as 12% higher viewing levels among adults 18 to 24, the company estimates, translating to ratings increases of 0.2 to 1.0 rating point per show.

“Including college viewing in the national ratings will give our clients a more complete picture of television viewing, particularly among young adults,” Sara Erichson, general manager, national services for Nielsen Media Research, said in a statement. “Nielsen is continuously striving to improve the accuracy and completeness of its measurements. Expanding the National sample to include out-of-home college students is one of many initiatives we are pursuing.”

Nielsen has been testing a similar sample for viewing in second homes, but a Nielsen spokesperson said the results were not significant enough to include in the national sample.

But the company is not measuring “out of home” viewing in public places such as bars, offices and restaurants. Currently, the only ratings system that is able to capture that type of viewing is Arbitron’s Portable People Meter, a pager device that detects viewing wherever the participant travels while wearing the PPM. Nielsen is involved in the service’s current test in Houston.

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