The radio and television industry came into existence much later than the print media in the United States and elsewhere. When advertisers began actively using television and radio as a medium of advertising, data about popularity and viewership were hard to come by. In the case of print media, circulation figures were considered to be enough evidence about readership levels. This not was possible when rating TV and radio show popularity. “Since 1930, when a group called the Co-operative Analysis of Broadcasting conducted one of the first audience surveys for radio, several individuals and companies have attempted to provide syndicated audience information.” (Wimmer & Dominick, 2005). This particular area is now dominated by two major corporations namely Nielsen Media Research and Arbitron (local market radio). This paper studies the Nielsen Media Research Company, its history, products, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Examples of measurement, data, and its collection methods will also be presented.
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Nielsen Media Research
The Company has its origin way back in 1926 when it was founded by an engineer named Arthur C Nielsen and was called A. C. Nielsen Company. The company was one of the pioneers in market research. The group was split into AC Nielsen and Nielsen Media Research as a strategic move. In 2001, both these companies were acquired by a Dutch corporation called VNU. The present name of the group is The Nielsen Company. Apart from the United States, the company operates in forty other countries across the world. (About Neilson, 2008).
According to the website, Nielson Media Research has the following sister corporations namely Nielsen//NetRatings (internet activity research), Nielsen EDI (box office research), Nielsen NRG (Hollywood), Nielsen ReelResearch (TV program and advertising material research), Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen VideoScan, and Nielsen BookScan, Nielsen Monitor-Plus and Nielsen Outdoor billboard viewership). The headquarters of Nielsen Media Research is located in New York and its operations headquarters is in Florida. Apart from this, the company has regional offices throughout the country.
The Company provides products and services to the following categories of customers. They are advertisers, broadcast networks, local stations, Hispanic stations, Hispanic networks, and national cable networks.
It is to be noted that all of the following information (unless otherwise indicated) has been sourced from the relevant pages on the Company website.
Nielsen offers a comprehensive range of products and services to advertisers. The company states that their flagship product is Ad Views®, which is a software that provides advertising activity (of competitors also) in 210 markets across the country. It will help to analyze the ROI of an advertising campaign. Other products include Galaxy Explorer (comprehensive viewership), KeepingTrac (ad airing verification), NPOWER (audience behavior), Quick Views (competitor ad spend), Place Views (ad placement), Print Views (analysis of magazine advertising), and Sponsorship Scorecard (analyzing sports sponsorships).
Three of the above-mentioned products are available to broadcast networks namely Ad Views, Galaxy Explorer, and Place Views. Nielsen Media Research provides data from the 19 Spanish broadcast stations in the country. This data is also useful for advertisers and who is Spanish as s medium of advertising. For Hispanic networks, the company offers everyday ‘tracks and trends’ in-network as well as cable broadcast. This is done for both Spanish and English advertisements and programs. For cable networks, comprehensive data is provided about viewership, rating, audience characteristics, etc.
A very wide range of reports are provided by Nielson Media Research and they are too numerous to be listed here. The company provides a total of 64 different types of reports. Their frequency varies from daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Some reports are produced during selected months in a year. Due to this large number, only a few selected ones will be given. The African American Study and DMA Planners Guide are examples of selected month reports. The Network Primetime Feature Film Directory and NSI Directory of Stations are examples of yearly reports. The NHIH Spanish Cable Pocket pieces and Up-Front Buying Guide (UFBG) are examples of quarterly reports.
Nielsen Media Research also provides a very wide range of services too numerous to be listed here. A few examples are given here. The National Agency, Broadcaster, and Syndication Services (NABSS) give the audience estimates of programs that are broadcast nationally. Nielsen Station Index (NSI) provides information like the top-rated program broadcast during a particular time slot. The Nielsen Television Index Hispanic (NTIH) provides viewership and other data for Hispanic programs. Nielsen Analytics provides a wide range of information like content delivery and consumer media technology.
The Company delivers a total of 39 products (including the ones mentioned above. All the products are related to the television, movie, and cable industry. Nielsen also provides information and statistics of the gaming industry which includes computer, online and mobile games.
Nielson Media Research uses many methods in arriving at their research conclusions.
- Viewership ratings %: Audience X 100
(Audience is the actual viewership and universal estimate is the total population.)
- Households using television rating % (HUT): No of households with TV sets in use X 100 Total households in the country/market
- Persons using television: No of persons viewing TV X 100
Total no of persons
- Share of audience: Ratings X 100
- Average audience projection: Ratings X Universe (total)
- Viewings per viewing household: Persons projection X 100
- Cost per rating point: Average unit cost X 100
- Cost per thousand: Media cost x 1000
Sample: A sample report of one of the many reports produced by the company is given below
|Nielsen Television Index Ranking Report|
|NETWORK PRIME HOUSEHOLDS AND PERSONS|
|11/03/08 – 11/09/08|
|RANK||PROGRAMS||ORIG||HH RATING (LIVE+SD)||# OF PERSONS 2+ (LIVE+SD) (000)|
|3||DANCING WITH THE STARS||ABC||11.1||17089|
|4||NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL||NBC||11.0||17564|
|5||DANCING W/STARS RESULT SP(S)||ABC||10.2||15848|
|6||GREY’S ANATOMY-THU 9PM||ABC||10.1||15740|
|9||SNL PRESIDENTIAL BASH ’08(S)||NBC||8.7||14436|
Data collection methods
There are two primary methods through which Nielsen Media Research collects information for its huge database. They have a database of 10, 000 households with a population of 18,000 persons who have agreed to provide details of their viewership patterns and behavior to the company. This household and population have been statistically selected to represent the national-level population. At present these are limited to the smaller markets. These diaries are periodically mailed to the company. This data called listener diary for radio and viewer diary for television also provides the demographic information about the respondents. (Albarran, Chan-Olmsted & Wirth, 2006).
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Another more practical method is the passive electronic metering set up in the homes of the respondents. called the people meter, it automatically records the name of the broadcaster, the number of minutes viewed, channel changes, etc automatically. It even assigns separate buttons to each member of the household. When the set is switched on a light flashes reminding the viewer to press his assigned button. Mid-sized market households are provided with a set tuning meter which only provides information about set tuning only. (About Neilson, 2008).
The Company has a good career rating from other organizations. It has been rated as one of the most diverse companies in the country by Diversity Inc. It has also been rated as one of the best companies to work (IT section) in by Computer World. The company offers a wide variety of careers that includes sales, research, software development, product support, etc.
Analysis of Nielsen Media Research
- Strengths: There are a lot of strengths associated with Nielson Media Research. It has a long history of being in the field and is also one of the pioneers in media research. It has a global presence and is a part of a huge multinational with many sister concerns. It has a virtual monopoly in the field of television and radio ratings at the national level. The company has a good career rating which will help in attracting the right talent. The company’s financial performance is also quite strong.
- Weaknesses: Nielsen Media Research has been associated with a company that has been in the field for seventy-two years. As such there are no direct weaknesses within the company. But two areas could undermine the company’s effectiveness and credibility in the future. It should be noted that the company had started when there were only a few radio and television channels in the United States. The situation has changed drastically over the years. The number of the above-mentioned media has risen dramatically. The cable TV industry also has gained prominence. Population diversity has also increased. This has resulted in making the data gathering process highly complex. This has been compounded by the arrival of the internet, electronic games, and mobile marketing. According to a company executive, “the size of a typical database product Nielsen delivers to clients has increased by a factor of ten about every four years, not to mention the complexity and enhanced client usability needs of those products”. (Neilson media augments IT strengths, turns data into dollars, 2008).
If the company does not gear itself technically to handle this volume, its effectiveness might be at stake.
The next issue which is more serious is concerned with methods it employees to gather data. There have been criticisms that the company’s sample population is not representative of the Hispanic and other ethnic groups in the country. This could result in faulty research results. There have also been objections to the actual methodology used in gathering data. Moreover, some “critics suggest that the company is unresponsive to its clients and is trying to push poorly developed technology and faulty sampling methods”. (Journal of Competition Law and Economics, 2007).
A bill has been introduced in the Senate which if passed will require compulsory certification of research methods carried out by private companies. The certification will be done by an accredited council before any results can be sold.
Nielson Media Research will face many problems if it does not respond to the above challenges. One way to handle information overload is to develop or invest in new technology. They could also try and go for more outsourcing. At present Nielsen is already outsourcing some of its functions. The second issue is more serious. Steps should be taken to see if the data collection methods are flawed. If so, they should be immediately corrected. The Company should also take the initiative to certify its products even before regulations have been passed into law. This will also encourage other companies to follow suit.
- About Neilson. (2008). Nielson Media Research. Web.
- Albarran, Alan. B., Chan-Olmsted, Sylvia. M., & Wirth, Michael. O. (2006). Handbook of Media Management and Economics. 627. Web.
- Journal of Competition Law and Economics. (2007). 3 (1), 49-96, Oxford University Press.
- Neilson media augments IT strengths, turns data into dollars. (2008). Outsourcing Center: An Everest Group Company. Web.
- Wimmer, Roger. D., & Dominick, Joseph. R. (2005). Ratings research. Mass Media Research. 341. Web.