Ratings revolution

Nielsen to consider other programming platforms

Nielsen Media Research plans to change radically the way it measures TV viewing, developing a new system that will follow viewers as they migrate from TV to iPods to the Internet and back again.

Under the new initiative, which Nielsen has dubbed Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement, or A2/M2, the company plans eventually to start counting other platforms on which viewers can now catch programming. Beyond iPods and the Internet, cell phones and other mobile devices would also be included.

The most striking change, though, is Nielsen’s decision to move to an all-electronic ratings gathering system by 2011. That means the frequently unreliable diaries still used in most medium- and small-sized markets to count local demo ratings (and in the smallest of markets are the only means of ratings) will eventually be trashed in favor of new approaches.

Nielsen also plans to include all out-of-home viewing in its data — which would include bars, hotels, restaurants, trains, cars and other homes — adding personal meters to measure such viewing by 2008. The ratings service has long been criticized for not counting viewing that takes place away from the household.

Nielsen Media Research prexy-CEO Susan Whiting said the company will launch “the most extensive research and testing program in the company’s history.”

“A2/M2 is the result of extensive consultation with clients, who told us clearly that we should ‘follow the video’ and deliver integrated measurement of all television-like content regardless of platform,” Whiting said.

Nielsen and its sibling NetRatings hope to start including Internet viewing to its People Meter ratings next year; the company will start offering some data this summer through which clients can start comparing TV and Internet usage.

Meanwhile, Nielsen said it is testing a new Go Meter to measure out-of-home viewing and a Solo Meter to measure portable media devices. The company is also looking into consumer usage of such devices, in one instance creating a 400-person panel of iPod users.

As for the local measurement switch, Nielsen plans to add another 15 markets to its roster of Local People Meter users (which currently encompasses the top 10 local TV markets), starting with Houston, Seattle and Tampa in October 2007.

Starting in 2008, Nielsen will replace diaries in markets 26 through 60 by introducing a new Active/Passive meter that can be set next to the TV and wirelessly collect viewing data.

As for the other medium and small-sized markets, Nielsen plans to replace paper by mailing out battery-powered meters to homes in markets 61 to 125. It is still investigating various ways (such as set-top boxes and Internet diaries) to electronically gather viewing info in the nation’s smallest markets.

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