On Being a Nielsen Family

Ever wondered what being a Nielsen household is like? In this 2008 article, Linda the red-headed blogger shares her experience. From what we’ve gathered about the Nielsen experience, many participants felt that TV viewing became a chore, even with the People Meter device installed. After all, many of us watch our shows days, if not, weeks later or in binge sessions once they’re available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, etc.  If you get to the People Meter stage, you’ll be surveyed and contacted often, which you’ll either find really intrusive or just thorough.

So what *IS* Nielsen Research?

They’re the company that collects data on viewing habits to inform networks and advertisers about their opportunities. They spend millions, if not billions, collecting this data but we’re sure they make that back tenfold, as marketers desperately seek the elusive insights that will help them reach more consumers.

With that in mind, some say that Nielsen is becoming less and less relevant. In 2014, the otherwise quiet company (at least as far as consumers are concerned) made a major announcement. They plan to triple, if not quadruple, the install base of People Meter devices. Currently, they sample the data of around 40,000 households, each representing their local markets. The sample data may not seem significant but, when you consider that they target specific markets and demographics, it makes sense that they’d use smaller segments to represent the wholes.

If you got something from Nielsen Research, don’t ignore it..  You’re part of an exclusive club of awesome people!

The process starts with your household receiving a basic questionnaire. They’ll ask you about your work schedule, typical viewing week, working television sets (including monitors), and household size. Larger households who collectively view over 20 hours a week of TV usually have an advantage, with TV show viewings being particularly important for data collection purposes.

My issue with the viewing diaries and other early steps is that the questions seem silly, intrusive, and redundant at times. Is my TV on or off? Why does it really matter? For these early stages, they should just capture the basic information to encourage folks to participate more. Also, let’s be honest: who is actively keeping a diary while watching TV, outside of the folks actively writing, podcasting, or covering TV in some way? It’s a bit much to ask of people without some real value for value exchange beyond the lofty “you could save your favorite TV show!”

As folks move more towards the commercial-free on-demand platforms, it seems Nielsen has no place but the reality is that they could shape how TV is viewed. It is my firm belief that, if they up the perks of being a Nielsen family, participating households will be more inclined to watch TV in the “old school” manner: as TV shows and movies are premiered. That said, it may be prudent for Nielsen to expand their scope to a week or two as they still rely heavily on DVR+1 numbers (the day shows premier plus DVR viewings the day after), which does not align with how most folks are consuming TV content these days. I reckon many people getting the few crisp dollar bills in the mail don’t even bother with the diaries or barely fill them out because it’s a huge pain in the butt. Why isn’t there an online submission form? The diaries should be worksheets to help easily jot down and structure the info.

Many of us in the Geeky Antics Network Global (GANG) community are involved in content creation, marketing, and the many facets of entertainment so we see Nielsen as a very important player in media as whole. As much as we say we don’t need cable, satellite, or maybe even TV as a whole, imagine a world without these content providers. It is my personal hope that Nielsen can help create a more competitive and balanced landscape for content consumers and providers alike.

Imagine if there were scaling incentives based upon the diversity and amount of TV you view as a Nielsen household. Perhaps folks would start scheduling their lives around the TV sets again like we saw before the Internet became huge in the late 90s and beyond. Of course, this could be a slipper slope for consumers. There’s a lot of quality television, with fantastic shows airing at the same time. On network television alone, there are usually four awesome shows airing at the same time on prime time.

20+ hours of weekly TV viewing.  Who has that sort of free time??  It’s no wonder a majority of TV viewing happens in binge/marathon sessions these days!

Let’s look briefly at the Fall 2016 TV schedule and the shows coming up: The Walking Dead, Lucifer, Van Helsing, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, Frequency, Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, Designated Survivor, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Lethal Weapon, Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, Timeless, The Voice, Jane The Virgin, Son Of Zorn, Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons, Once Upon A Time, NCIS, Quantico, Bull, NCIS: New Orleans, Modern Family, Black-Ish, Empire, Law & Order: SVU, Blindspot, MacGyver, The Exorcist, Blue Bloods, The Vampire Diaries, Hawaii Five-O… Then you got the midseason shows like Grimm, Prison Break, Bones, 24: Legacy, The 100… HOLY HANNAH! That’s a lot of TV and, right there, you’re talking about a weekly commitment of over 20 hours. YIKES! There’s a lot of quality there, too, so I can see why former Nielsen families can find it to be daunting. Once you’ve been selected, you feel like you HAVE to watch more TV… because you kind of do.

BTW, The Exorcist is probably the biggest surprise this Fall TV season.  It’s a shame it’s a Fox show, which means it’ll probably be canceled.  This show is really, REALLY good..  So long as the gore and religious themes do not turn you off.

I’m a marketer and content creator myself (in case you haven’t noticed) so I’ve always found Nielsen Research to be a fascinating company. Now that I’ve met folks that have been involved in the process or have been long-time participants, it’s got me thinking about it all even more. I wonder about the future of media and entertainment. As much as I love digital, I think we are a bit spoiled and perhaps there is urgency here for us to change our viewing habits and watch TV responsibly. Gosh, that does sound like work but, really, TV is still a great way to disconnect and unwind. For many of us, it’s one of the few opportunities we get during our busy work schedules to connect with friends and family. To that end, I feel that Nielsen serves a vital role in re-uniting families and bringing them back to the living room.

Now, I know that a lot of personal development says you shouldn’t watch much TV, if at all, because it’s a time sink. It’s true. For a few years, my TV was down to under five hours a week. Now, I’ve been sucked in. What I’ve lost in productivity I’ve regained in friendships and conversation starters. There’s value in that. Heck, there is inherent value in the relaxation and creative prompts that TV content provides us. I get some of my best ideas while watching TV shows and, unlike reading a book (which is very important BTW), I can multitask a bit and still enjoy the content.

TV is not the problem.  It’s time management and knowing how to balance it all out.  If you don’t watch TV ever, my guess is that you’re not a very creative person..  And you’re probably a bore at social gatherings..  Sorry.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking it all and, somehow, this behind-the-scenes article on Nielsen Research has turned into an advocacy piece for prolific TV viewing? *shrug* All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t feel dirty for watching TV. We all need an outlet, after all. If you have been contacted by Nielsen, congrats – you are one of the maybe 10% of households that has been considered. The process is involved but it is well worth it. Dare I say: you are doing a great service for your country. Okay, that may be a bit much but it is important. Good luck and happy TV viewing – don’t forget to come up for air!

If you’re interested in some more specifics about the direction of Nielsen Media Research and the sample size of their data, check out this post – http://tvline.com/2014/05/29/tv-ratings-nielsen-to-increase-sample-size/

Crone and Bear It

Today is the day. The nice folks from the Nielsen company are coming out to disconnect all their equipment. Now that our commitment is over I can tell you that we have been a Nielsen family for the last two years. This is the second time we have been a part of the Nielsel Ratings system and it’s kind of a hoot knowing that what you watch on tv influences the ratings at least somewhat. One of our technicians told us we represented 60,000 households. Wow, that’s alot of folks channel surfing.

The last time we were randomly chosen to do this, the way Nielsen monitored your tv watching was a bit different. We had to keep a manual paper log of everything we were watching. That was a real pain, especially since at that time we watched alot of tv. Every time I turned around I was marking something…

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