The Committee on National Television Audience Measurement (CONTAM) is expected to announce the unveiling of an audience measurement project to reevaluate the validity of the A.C. Nielsen ratings statistics at a press conference today.
CONTAM, whose members include ABC, CBS, NBC and the National Assn. of Broadcasters, has long been critical of Nielsen statistics and methodology.
The group, through New Jersey-based Statistical Research Inc., has been doing lab research of TV audiences in an attempt to challenge the accuracy of Nielsen numbers.
Research executives voiced heightened concern about the rating system last year, when Arbitron announced that it was pulling out of the TV ratings business , effectively giving Nielsen a monopoly in local audience measurement as well as national ratings.
Some suggested that the networks should fund their own service to provide an alternative to Nielsen.
“We’re all looking at a medium that’s changing a great deal. New things are coming up electronically, and audience measurement has to keep up,” said George Hooper, a senior associate at SRI who has been working on the live experiment along with SRI president Gale Metzger.
CONTAM and SRI aim to expand the scope of the current viewing experiment fieldwork in order to improve national TV audience measurement methods. In 1992, SRI published a seven-volume study of national ratings methodology, funded by CONTAM, which was highly critical of the Nielsens.