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Kathy Shaidle

More about Nielsen Ratings, from a former industry insider

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Posted on April 30 2010 2:19 pm
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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I got an email today I’d like to share with you:

Hi Kathy …

Your comment today about Glenn Beck’s “falling” Nielsen ratings was bang on, especially when you wondered if the recession has some people cutting off the cable TV.

It does, but it’s a tiny bit more complex than that.

* Nielsen’s NATIONAL ratings are measured via an -in-home device called a ‘People Meter’ attached to the TV set … every 15 minutes it not only monitors the channel that is on, but also how many and who is/are in the room presumably watching (via a kind of motion detector device)

* to be a Neilsen People Meter household you must be able to receive a certain range / number of channels, not just 3 or 4 “over the air” …so that means cable (because, frankly, cable broadcasters are the ones whose Nielsen fees PAY FOR all this technology!)

* with the recession, many households have had to “trade down” / economize, or even leave their home for cheaper rental accommodation … eventually Nielsen DOES get around to replacing those who drop out, but they’re NOT in any hurry because they’re the ONLY game in town, and the cable broadcaster’s fees just keep rolling in (think of Nielsen’s ratings as being like any government monopoly = overpriced and lousy service!)

* so there are simply FEWER People Meter households out there, as Nielsen SLOOOOOOOOOWLY gets around to find new household participants …therefore the total number of “viewers” seems to be down, but (in total) it’s not likely down much, just that Nielsen is slow to replace the People Meter drop outs

Thanks to my correspondent for offering those insights into the TV ratings system. I’d add that you have to be a “certain class of person” to qualify as a member of the “Nielson Family;” this is a decades-long complaint about that ratings systems (mostly coming from media critics on the Left), and from what I’ve heard, hasn’t been adequately addressed.

Meanwhile, after all the leftwing bloviating about how “Glenn Beck’s ratings are down,” comes this interesting breaking factoid (see graph above):

“Glenn Beck Takes Over Top Show On Cable News This Week As O’Reilly Is Out”:

With Bill O’Reilly out this week, Glenn Beck  has taken over the top cable news spot in the [highly coveted] A25-54 demographic, beginning with a small win on Monday. Laura Ingraham gave The O’Reilly Factor a solid total viewer win, however.

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