Nielsen/Sony Electronics sponsored poll on 'impactful' moments

Nielsen has released the findings of a large-scale study conducted with Sony Electronics to identify the most impactful television events over the last 50 years.

September 11 coverage ranked as the No. 1 most impactful TV event. Other events that made the top 20 list include Hurricane Katrina coverage, the O.J. Simpson verdict, Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, the earthquake in Japan, and the shooting of John F. Kennedy. 57% of respondents said they believe television creates a common culture in America.

Over 1,000 adults were surveyed online in three categories — sports, news and entertainment — and asked about 96 total events through open and closed-ended questions.

“We wanted to try to separate this study from studies that just analyze ratings,” Paul Lindstrom, senior VP of custom research at Nielsen told Variety. “This goes beyond just knowing how much viewing there was of an event at the time…we wanted to know what events are sticking with people across the population and creating a collective consciousness.”

Data has shown that the response to certain types of events remains consistent irrespective of time period. “The level of a royal wedding or a big sporting event during the Olympics, in terms of viewers’ response to it, remains steady whether it’s happening in the ’80s or 2000s,” noted Lindstrom.

Impactfulness varies within specific demos, however. Some of the most highly recalled TV moments for women include Prince William and Kate’s Middleton’s wedding, Princess Diana’s funeral and the finale of “Friends.” Amoung men, sports and military moments ranked highest, along with news of Osama bin Laden’s death.

Brian Siegel, veep of Sony Electronics’ TV Business remarked that the study is proof that “irrespective of brand, television remains the integral to the family’s information and entertainment…we still turn to TV to drive our discussions.”

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