Young Men Return to Tube


About those young men who disappeared from the Nielsen Media Research sample last fall -- they’re back.

In the fourth quarter of 2003, there was an 8% drop in TV usage by men 18-34. There was much head-scratching and pondering in the research community as to what Nielsen did (or didn’t do) to make them go away.

After much prodding from the industry, Nielsen wrote and issued a “white paper” on the subject late last year that suggested maybe half the decline was due to methodological changes in the sample (including a new ratings weighting process, among other things).

But half the drop, Nielsen asserted, was simply due to the fact that young men were finding other things to do, like playing video games.

Well, in the first quarter, TV usage in the demo was down only 6%, and through the first five weeks of the second quarter the decline is just 1%. So what gives? “It probably just self-corrected,” says a network researcher, noting that a few years back there was a similar unexplained decline in TV viewing among young women. Within a couple of quarters viewing in that demo was back to normal levels.

But Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus takes issue with that explanation. “That implies there was something to correct,” he says. They’re back, he suggests, because they’ve found shows on TV that interest them.