TiVo, the little gadget that helps you record television programming, is poised to give Nielsen serious competition in how video audiences are measured — and perhaps to fill some gaps. Nielsen, as you know, compiles ratings for television programming that explain what percent — or share — of the 114 million TV sets in the United States are tuned to any program. Trouble is, Nielsen bases such ratings on a sample of 25,000 U.S. households. While Nielsen does process more than 2 million paper diaries in its four “sweeps” heavy observation periods, in general only 0.02% of the entire U.S. television audience is actually measured — and 99.9% is not.
TiVo will shake that up by releasing directly observed data on 375,000 households: second-by-second viewing from TiVo’s set-top boxes including whether you skip commercials, play shows back later, or pump content from Hulu or YouTube through your set. Critics have long pointed out that Nielsen’s panel-based measurement leads to errors. Panelists tend to overestimate their viewing of new programs they think they’d like; college students, in that sweet youth demo, have been underrepresented; viewing outside of the home, such as in bars, is not recorded; and thanks to the blunt scoring system, some shows with real audiences have been given 0.0 share. New data is coming, and the shifts may unnerve $70 billion in TV investments.
Image: Môsieur J.