Nielsen sample closer to ideal

UPN working to understand impact of changes

Differences in Nielsen samples have played havoc with the ratings for UPN’s Monday night comedy block, causing the appearance of a steep decline from last year when viewership is flat, CBS executives said.

Nielsen Media Research and UPN have been working to understand the impact of sampling changes, which appear to have over-represented African-American women in the 2003-2004 season and slightly under-represents the demo now.

That swing caused the appearance of a 19% dropoff in viewership, but corrected figures indicate a slight dropoff among African-American women and an increase in other viewers, making the Monday night lineup flat in women 18-34 with a 2.1 rating from 8 to 10 p.m.

That time period features UPN’s “One on One,” “Cuts,” “Girlfriends” and “Half & Half,” which the network sells as targeted media reaching African-Americans.

“They have relatively small ratings points but they are among the most-watched programs among African-Americans,” CBS VP of research David Poltrack said.

The discrepancy in the numbers are “masking a pretty solid performance by UPN on Monday night,” Poltrack said.

Last year’s Nielsen sample overcounted African-American women in markets where it collects data with Local People Meters, oversampling the demo by three percentage points. This year Nielsen honed its sample to closer mirror Census data, and is now undercounting the demo by nearly a point.

African-American women make up 12.2% of Nielsen’s sample, compared with 13.1% in the population measured by people meters. Last year the same sample included 16.9% African-American women, compared with 13.9% in the general population.