Nielsen says it will retire the paper diaries viewers use to record what they’re watching on TV by early 2018.
The diaries—often criticized for their lack of accuracy—are still used in some mid-sized to small markets in compiling local ratings. But by mid-2017, all markets will use set-top return-path data and other electronic data to measure viewership, Nielsen said.
Those diaries were distributed in months that are still known as sweep months. Electronic data is gathered all year round.
Nielsen competes with comScore, which uses set-top box data to provide ratings in local markets.
"By tapping into the strengths of Return Path Data and electronic measurement, and combining it with Nielsen's gold-standard panels and meters, we will be delivering a superior product to help all local clients address current challenges and be better positioned for future trends," said Megan Clarken, president, Nielsen Product Leadership. "These enhancements are part of Nielsen's commitment to invest in and transform how local TV is measured in a cross-platform world across all screens and services."
The electronic data comes from millions of home—versus thousands of diaries—and should provide more granularity and stability.
Nielsen said it is providing clients with consistent measurement, true-person exposure data and complete local market coverage. “This enhanced measurement service will provide actionable audience estimates, enabling precise buying of persons-level data to uncover the true value of local audiences,” the company said.