Probing Deeper For TV Measurement

For TV network executives, the mind is a terrible thing to waste -- especially when viewers are worn out just pushing Nielsen PeopleMeter control buttons. 

Now, one network, NBC, has decided not to squander brain waves any longer. In a recent test conducted by a doctor from the HarvardMedicalSchool, the network has attached probes to some 20 to 25 TV viewers to scientifically assess their hearts and minds. NBC has now entered the world of neurophysiology, examining brain waves, galvanic skin response and eye movements.

The results aren't totally in yet. But we're told those brain waves don't offer up empty pictures of TV color test bars and static. We can only guess viewers are thinking more concretely:

Tested viewer #1 (while watching "Heroes" character's head being ripped off): "Hmm. I wonder if Taco Bell is open late in my neighborhood."

Tested viewer #2 (while watching a "Heroes" character making a house radioactive): "Hmm. I wonder why Hiro doesn't tell his father, played by George Takei, that his hero is Sulu."



NBC says early results confirm other research.  Concerning the very problematic activity of DVD fast-forwarding, research shows viewers don't tune out.

"There is some engagement, some comprehension going on," Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBC Universal, told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's not as though they are a blank slate."

What's wrong with that? TV usually offers up many blank slates, being the "cool" and "passive" entertainment device that it is.

No matter what the outcome, NBC believes this is the future -- far better than asking viewers to remember after the fact about what they had seen and what they remember.  Not that this would in any way replace ratings as the new "currency." NBC just wants to understand consumer behavior.

The test also measures skin activity. In that regard, it would be good to test network executives -- especially during development and upfront season. Figure on getting high numbers for "goosebumps" as well as "stuff that makes your skin crawl."



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