Nielsen to Rate Time-Shifted Programming


In a move to catch up with the disruption of TV viewing patterns from TiVo Inc. and its pals, Nielsen Media Research will credit networks for much -- but not all -- of the viewership of their shows on DVRs.

In a memo to clients issued Wednesday, the ratings agency said that viewing of network sitcoms and dramas played back on DVRs will be included in national ratings starting July 2005.

However, Nielsen’s overnight ratings will only include programs watched live. The company will later revise the ratings to credit networks for time-shifted shows, provided they are played back within seven days. If a Nielsen home watches that episode of CSI, say, two weeks later, the network won’t get credit.

Nielsen has not yet settled on how treat viewers who fast forward through a program. But one network research executive said the agency expects to only count the number of minutes spent viewing a program. Skip through all commercials in Friends, and Nielsen will count you as having watched 23 minutes or so, not 30.

To accomplish this, Nielsen will depend on new A/P meters (for "active/passive") that will read codes embedded into the programming. Nielsen has traditionally relied on a metered home’s channel changes, which means nothing if they’re watching the show on a DVR.