Thursday, November 15, 2007
FBO: 'Bans Nielsen Ratings & Puts Polls on Watchlist'
DO YOU WANT A GUY IN KENILWORTH* DECIDING WHAT'S ON YOUR TV?
A recent article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell discussed how some criminal cases turn to detectives who look at the aspects of a crime scene -- or in the case of serial killers, any messages left behind (notes, defecation) -- and 'profile' the criminal based on a few identifiers. It recounts a brilliant job one profile made to locate the 'Con Edison bomber' of the 1940s and 1950s, then knocked the legs from under it by mentioning 'about 2%' of these profiles turn up accurate. And in the end most of the profilings are akin to the same hokey-pokey readings you might get from a Fortune Teller.
This leads to Nielsen Ratings. Advertising revenues, and the existence of TV programs like the critically loved Arrested Development, depend on this enigmatic, mysterious rating system. Did you know that, currently, Nielsen ranks TV shows based on just 12,000 homes in (only) the ten biggest cities nationwide, representing 35,000 people? Meaning that one 'Nielsen viewer' has 8600 Americans on their back -- quite a burden.
The ratings are based on tabulations by 'people meters' (on TVs without TiVo, missing a huge new way people watch TV) and supposedly are consistent with ethnic breakdowns in population percentages. By 2011, Nielsen is hoping to expand to 37,000 homes.
Considering there are 109 million households with TVs in the USA, is even 37,000 enough -- particularly when concentrated in the most urban locations?
No. Nothing takes in account of regional differences, it would seem. Take a show like Friday Night Lights, which triumphs accented small-town football players in West Texas -- something that might make a dent on TVs in Dallas, but less so in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Critics love the show, but audiences don't seem to be showing up -- or are they?
Twenty percent of Americans live outside cities -- not a lot. But America's top ten cities account for about 8% of the national population. Life in a city of two million is a LOT different than life in Birmingham -- does Nielsen cover that? What if, oh, NASCAR appeals to rural areas, the south, and many cities under the population of 250,000 -- will that be missed completely by Niel's little list?
What's more, if you try to find out such -- even the list of cities with people's meters, it's hard to find. Articles in places like The New York Times, even, don't list the top-heavy cities with a voice.
Questions to be answered.
Meanwhile, the FBO bans the Nielsen Ratings system, and puts all national polls -- far more important as an influencer in elections -- on the FBO watch list.
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* Affluent neighborhood of north Chicago