Here it goes, the final installment in my Nielsen series. I’ve discussed how Nielsen works and why it has issues, but now I’ll discuss why Nielsen ratings should not be used to measure how popular a show is.
The Nielsen ratings are designed to establish how much a show can charge to play commercials in its breaks. By doing this through a sample, you get relative information. But the technology of today makes Nielsen only a part of the big picture. We also need to factor in the more precise readings coming from cable companies and the numbers from streaming devices. DVR usage is another factor to considering when trying to establish a shows popularity. Cable companies know how long t takes for you to get to a DVR recording, or what you are watching On Demand. It goes through their system and can thus be tracked. Am I crazy in believing that more accurate tracking is a better gauge than sampling? What about all those people who are not part of the sample group. Are their viewing habits irrelevant because they weren’t chosen. It simply seems foolishly to me to not rely on all possible data.
In an era where everything is digital and people take to the internet for every little thing, the voices they displayed are important. People live tweet their favorite shows and comment publicly on various shows. The more shows are mentioned the more they are exposed. Word of mouth is no longer the only mode of getting opinions out there. We have ratings systems for everything. And so many social platforms that many get lost in the shuffle. The big dogs, twitter, facebook, and tumblr get information to a massive amount of people and allow for the general public to see. People are then talking about shows and expressing their interest.
But not everyone fosters an addiction to the internet, in which case their watching habits rely more on cable. The youth is very different. Instead of paying pricey cable bills, they opt for streaming services. This is an increasing trend with more and more people young and old cutting the cable and choosing to go to the internet for the things they want to watch. It is the beginning of a permenant shift in the way we watch television. Currently, network television wants to grasp onto the old model. Shows like Community who have large audiences that fall into the category of people who have cut the cable are suffering. Thus we need accurate measuring of this data which includes putting a greater weight on the streaming services that have become more popular.
In the future, I envision Nielsen ratings either fading away unless they adapt a way to properly gauge the viewing audience and success of a show without relying on small sample groups. Nielsen may need to evolve more to compensate, but the major problem lies with the networks. The networks must realize and accept that sitting down in front of the TV when they schedule a show is not the way everyone watches. If they can think to the future and find new ways to make the same revenue by advertising in different ways and not only placing weight on commercials the viewer will be better off. Like I said before, Nielsen is a way for networks to figure out how much money they can charge to play a commercial during a show. Which means the content and overall enjoyment of a show is not the key to a network. Shows are simply money makers for them.
Do you think networks will find other ways to advertise with new mediums? Do you think Nielsen will adapt and make it clear to networks that their products can make money on the other mediums?