You may have seen reports that Nielsen has expanded its US National People Meter panel and is using modeling in this expansion. What does this really mean? To understand the change that Nielsen has introduced, it’s useful to lay out the Nielsen TV measurement landscape in the US.
As of December 28, 2015, diaries have been replaced by a modeling of individual viewing (known as “Viewer Assignment”) onto the set meter homes’ data, using the household meter data and the NPM as the basis for this modeling. This will happen continuously, not just in sweep months. These modeled data are the same format as the people meter viewing records, enabling these set meter homes (about 12,500) to be included seamlessly in the NPM national sample. This is the major change that is being introduced to national measurement.
These changes will deliver more stable national ratings with fewer reported zero ratings and the overall effect has been to increase ratings for most networks. However, as with any change in currency measurement, it has been controversial. Chief complaints have been the timing (upfront deals were based on assumptions of lower ratings so campaigns running now have a measurement disconnect) and the fact that modeling of individuals viewing has been introduced.
My personal take on the modeling question is that all research is a model of the population. The key question is: does the new methodology provide a better estimate of US Television audiences? Without access to reams of comparison data it is difficult to be definitive but the answer to that question is probably “in most cases, yes.” The new measurement will deliver a significant improvement in stability, leading to fewer reported zeroes, which makes the business of buying and selling TV easier. This should be a worthwhile trade off against the small element of bias that may (or may not) be introduced by viewer assignment. The first year of a change in measurement is always bumpy and it will be interesting this time next year to see whether the industry feels it has benefitted from this change once the dust has settled and it’s business as usual.
Pete Doe is the Chief Research Officer at clypd.