Nielsen 101: Will Add College Viewers, Boost Ratings As Much As 12%

Nielsen Media Research Tuesday announced plans to add college students living away from home into its national TV ratings sample beginning in early 2007, marking the first time it will incorporate a so-called "out-of-home" viewing segment into its regular ratings panel.

Advertisers and agencies have been acutely interested in understanding the role of out-of-home viewing, but have been loath to incorporate it as part of the official Nielsen ratings "currency" out of concern that it would inflate the value of what they have already been implicitly paying for. Based on a series of special out-of-home measurement studies, the impact on TV audience levels and advertising rates may be quite explicit, raising ratings for some programs by as much as a full rating point.

At least that's the conclusion of a two-year Nielsen pilot study commissioned by Turner Broadcasting, The WB, CBS, MTV Networks, Fox, and ESPN. The first year demonstrated Nielsen's ability to successfully recruit and install People Meters in college locations, including dormitories and sorority and fraternity houses, as well as off-campus apartments. The second year focused on the ratings impact of including college location viewing, and revealed that it is considerable.



During the 2004-05 school year, college students living away from home watched an average of 24.3 hours of television per week. Nielsen estimates that overall Adult 18-24 viewing levels could increase anywhere from 3-12 percent by incorporating college viewing into Nielsen's national TV ratings. This could result in a ratings increase of 0.2 to 1.0 for individual programs, the company said in its announcement.

Nielsen gave no indication about adding other forms of out-of-home viewing into its regular sample, but has also conducted pilot studies on viewing in vacation homes, and has done custom studies of viewing in bars, restaurants, and other out-of-home locations.

However, Nielsen is expected to decide within the next six weeks on whether it will move forward with an option to develop a new TV and radio ratings service based on Arbitron's portable people meter system, which would measure both TV viewing and radio listening of individuals in all locations where they are exposed to those media. Arbitron's pilot studies and field tests in Philadelphia and Houston have shown a considerable contribution to TV audience levels from out-of-home locations.

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