Nielsen Ratings System: The Inevitable Evolution

Screen Rant - Television

When Arthur Nielsen first started metering television with his Audimeter, there were only 200 TV sets in use world wide. Originally, the Nielsen system was meant to measure brand advertising analysis for radio in the 30's. When the Nielsen system established itself in 1950, the average home had 1 television and received three networks.  I'm betting someone back then probably was saying "With all these channels, and there's still nothing on!"

As a society, we've grown beyond the constraints of the television itself.  We now watch our favorite shows not only when we want, but where and how we want. We have shows streaming on the internet to our laptops, desktops, phones and even streaming into our televisions now!  Who knows what else will come up.

Modern times are starting to tear apart that standard system of what time a show airs and what day. As this methodology of watching shows develops, I predict that the Friday night time slots will no longer be the death knell it's known for but just a quaint myth.

That's because at that time, the only real rating system won't be when or what hour something is on, but just how good is it and how many people viewed the program in total across all mediums.

Up until recently, the Nielsen system was what our favored television shows lived and died by.  The specific little niche of randomly selected "Nielsen Families" decided the fates of what many determined to be good shows while reality drabble, as some would call it, raged and still dominates the programming.  And that's because what "the ratings tell the advertisers."

But now advertisers, those who pay the money to get our entertainment produced, have to play catch up and try to capture the computer and mobile device demographics if they are going to succeed at selling products to the audience. And we have to face it, advertisers are those responsible for the programming that comes to air.  It's a necessary evil.

Dare I say, with the advent of streaming content, I am just counting the days when we can say goodbye to the Nielsen family.  They've been a massive thorn in the side of most decent fantasy and science fiction programming for a long time.  As time goes on, the content and appreciation factor for any program will be what matters.  Not when it airs.

Networks Are Not Waiting For Nielsen To Catch Up

Broadcast networks and media buying agencies are looking at creating a new ratings system and it's called The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM).  This system is looking to create a commitment to creating a new data research system.

They think of themselves as the alternative to the Nielsen system and include 14 companies looking to make a dent in this niche business of figuring out where the viewers are.

CIMM includes the following entities:

  • Jeff Bewkes, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner
  • George Bodenheimer, President of ESPN and ABC Sports, and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks
  • Nick Brien, President & CEO, Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands
  • Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and COO, News Corporation
  • Philippe Dauman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Viacom
  • Laura Desmond, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group Worldwide
  • Dina Howell, Vice President, Global Media & Brand Operations, The Procter & Gamble Company
  • Laura Klauberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media, Unilever
  • Esther Lee, Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing and Advertising, AT&T
  • Sir Martin Sorrell, Group Chief Executive, WPP, holding company for GroupM
  • Anne Sweeney, President, Disney-ABC Television Group and co-chair, Disney Media Networks
  • Nancy Tellem, President, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group
  • Page Thompson, CEO, North America, Omnicom Media Group
  • David M. Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications
  • Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal.

And as you see, they're not just small fry folk looking to make a name for themselves.

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