Last week Nielsen announced key rollout dates for its previously stated measurement enhancements, most of which had been announced last year. Nielsen plans to utilize several new statistical methodologies across both local and national measurement services. Since the announcement, Nielsen has received quite a lot of backlash (as happens with most big changes), but we at MAGNA support the initiatives as an important step in moving television measurement forward.
Nielsen has begun adding what will ultimately about 2,000 new electronic meters to the National panel, using the same technology and methodology already in place. Additionally, over the course of this year, 15 LPM markets are expected to be expanded by 200-300 meters each, effectively adding over 3,000 meters to the National sample by the time the expansion is completed. Nielsen also plans to leverage the 31 set meter markets, which currently only produce household-level data electronically (with demographics coming from diaries).
The most controversial part of the plan is the way in which Nielsen will assign demographics to both the aforementioned set meter markets and to future markets that will be measured by a new device called a Code Reader. This new technique is being named the “Viewer Assignment Methodology,” which uses statistical modeling to determine who in the household is viewing the program, by using National People Meter homes in a defined territory area, in the same time zone. This allows for the attribution of demographic viewing in homes where only household-level tuning was recorded.
With these changes, Nielsen will be able to remove archaic paper diaries from local measurement in a total of 45 markets—the 31 set meter markets, and an additional 14 markets that previously relied on diaries only. In the 14 diary-only markets, Nielsen will utilize its new metering device known as the “Code Reader”— a small, easy-to-install device that relies on audio codes and signatures to match viewing. The Code Reader only measures household level tuning, so demographic estimates will come from the Viewing Assignment Methodology.
Judging by the quotes we’ve seen in the press, some of our colleagues are concerned with using modeling for demographic estimates. Here is why we support it:
We believe this is the fastest and most cost effective way to add to the existing sample and help stabilize ratings, without passing on major expenses to clients. Unreliable diary measurement is being phased out. Even in homes where only household-level tuning is captured, Nielsen knows the demographic makeup of the residents.People Meter homes, in which persons viewing is directly, electronically captured, will serve as the “source of truth.”
Also, Developing an audience modeling approach now will help Nielsen if/when they decide to pursue using set top box data in the future (and we feel a hybrid approach is where they will ultimately go). Demographic viewing always has to be modeled when using return path data. And, Nielsen has demonstrated a commitment to working with both clients and the MRC to ensure their modeling process is consistent and transparent.
To paraphrase Voltaire, let’s not let “perfect” be the enemy of the good.