Ever since television began, the Nielsen company has been in business by making profits out of the audience measurement scheme. Arthur C. Nielsen was said to have revived Robinson’s audimeter idea in 1936 where its first built was bulky with paper-tape-and-stylus contraptions which were secured physically to the TV dial. Yet increasing improvements were made to the design, eventually resulting in digitalised data transmitted using phone lines to Nielsen’s Univec. Years later, more improvements were made and memory circuits were attached to the model from a low depot to a high-end computer with a modem. And during the 60’s, viewing habits which were vastly recorded by families using a pencil and a paper were transferred to Nielsen’s central computer to create a demographic operating system only by race, age, sex and tax bracket. However in 1987, the diary method was replaced with the People Meter. It is believed that the people meter working with the audimeter collected much more reliable data in a quicker phase compared to the old.
And how does the people meter work? Family circles are usually monitored passively for data by this meter. The meter being placed either on top, below, beside or behind the television set documents what is usually watched, its time span, what is recorded or even what’s fast-forward or rewined. It also has capabilities in knowing which family member had watched what programme with the use of a remote control where each individual has his or her own “I’m watching’ button. Then, its collective data reaches Nielsen’s every night transfiguring into ratings where it is available for seven days after the initial date. With different demographic settings, ratings from people aged 18-34 are usually the ones preferred.
However, many believe that Nielsen’s ratings are simply inaccurate. According to an external source, it is stated that these industries are primarily more interested in commercial ratings. Apparently, the network seems to give preference towards the number of people watching a certain advertisement than those watching a show. Networks whom work their way around the people’s ratings openly peddle the wider audience measurement by selling advertisements, setting prices and to decide what we do and don’t watch. And for those families whom skip through advertisements to watch a show will most likely get the show cancelled. Adding on, current ratings are more focused on system’s live and recently recorded programmes as viewers thesedays are lesser dependant on television schedules. What makes it harder are the viewing habits of audiences becoming fragmented and instinctively conjuring severe problems for the network. Indirectly, Nielsen’s ratings are reported to be imprecise as it does not reflect the actual number of people to a show’s viewership.
Fisher, A.,Are the Overnights Over?, WIRED, viewed on 29/8/2014, http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/1.06/nielsen_pr.html
Herrman, J. 2011, Why Nielsen Ratings Are Inaccurate,and Why They’ll Stay That Way, Splitsider, viewed on 29/8/2014,