Open Mic

Nielsen, Nets Need to Get Real When It Comes to Measuring Success

Jonathan Reiner Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:48 AM

Tags: Nielsen

Forgive me for the gap between entries, but I’ve been busy with work, school, repairmen, veterinarians and life. The good news is that I’m all caught up on my favorite reality shows thanks to my trusty DVR and the best invention of the 21st century (so far): the marathon!

My point (and I do have one) is that in 2009, life often gets in the way of our viewing habits -- but it doesn’t mean we love our shows any less. Just the opposite, in fact.

True, I’m not parked in front of the TV when a show premieres, like I was in the ‘70s with “Happy Days” or the ‘80s with “Dallas” -- but new technological innovations and online components (as well as social networking) allow me to savor and obsess over a show like never before.

For example:

--I am bringing the 30-minute preview of Bravo’s “NYC Prep” to my high school reunion this weekend (via my iPhone) so the Bronx High School of Science class of ’89 can laugh and scoff at those uppity preppy kids (like we did back in the day).

--Once again, my favorite part of MTV’s “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” is the obligatory reunion, where dirty laundry is aired and paraded (and pivotal moments are recalled via flashbacks). Now I have a jonesing for past challenges; thank God they’re on itunes!

--Everyone has an opinion about last week’s finale of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey”, and they’re not afraid to share it on Facebook. Thanks to the marathons (and re-runs of the finale) I can relive all the big-haired bodaciousness while messaging with friends. I must sound like a teenager, but it’s fun sharing laughs about reality TV with disparate people from across my address book!

--Even execs are getting into the action: “She’s Got the Look” honcho Allison Grodner posted a note on Facebook reminding her peeps to watch episode two on TV Land last night; I had forgotten all about the bitchy cougar-fest (DVR didn’t, thank GOD), and now I’m catching up on all the delicious action.

Unfortunately, Nielsen doesn’t measure the depth of viewer loyalty. In Nielsen’s universe, a 25-year-old girl who does homework with “American Idol” on in the background is more desirable than a 35-year-old man who loads watches and re-watches marathons or buys episodes on itunes and watches the show so often he can recite the dialogue word for word. That’s not right.

In a time when everyone is fighting for eyeballs and ad dollars, we need someone (anyone!) to step up to the plate and overhaul the way viewership is measured. Our lives are changing like never before, and we need a system that recognizes those innovations and assigns value to the lengths we’ll go to enjoy our favorite shows.