Nielsen eyes new metered markets

Dec 10, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Nielsen Media Research plans to add two new metered markets in 2002 and at least two more the following year, bringing its total set-top meter penetration to approximately 75 percent of the country by the end of 2003.
Nielsen has been having conversations with stations in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Omaha, Neb.; and Tulsa, Okla. The new metered markets are expected to come from this list.
Nielsen currently meters 53 U.S. markets, covering nearly 70 percent of the country.
Nielsen is also beginning to roll out local People Meters, starting with its ongoing field test in Boston. In time for the May 2002 sweeps, the existing set-top-meter sample of 420 homes in Boston is scheduled to be scrapped in favor of a 600-home People Meter sample.
What turns the Nielsen Mark II set-top meter into a People Meter is the keypad attachment that permits individuals in a Nielsen household to identify themselves to the meter when they are viewing television, adding the specifics of gender and age demographics to the household viewing data collected by the meter. Without the keypad, Nielsen must rely on the diary, that much-maligned staple of viewing measurement, to supplement its metered-household data.
Nielsen hopes to have its People Meters in all the top 10 local markets within the next three to five years, said Harry Stecker, general manager, local services, Nielsen Media Research.
While Mr. Stecker did confirm that Nielsen will be adding two metered markets in 2002, he declined to identify them, saying the stations that will be the customers have to be informed first.
Mr. Stecker also expressed a strong belief in the validity of the diary system, calling it “one of the more proven instruments in television.” Not only has Nielsen reached out to find more of those hard-to-tabulate minorities and young adults, it also has upgraded the diary mailers themselves so they now arrive in potential Nielsen homes-at least in those headed by people under 50-as attention-getting priority mail.
Inside those priority mailers are not only diaries to fill out, but also “incentives”-crisp new $5 bills for most households headed by a desirable demo or a minority and $1 bills for households headed by people 50 and older, who are more likely to respond anyway. For the just-concluded sweeps, Nielsen sent out about 300,000 diaries.
The high cost of the priority mailing paid off in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when fear of anthrax-contaminated mail gripped the nation, Mr. Stecker said. Even in the face of that fear, Nielsen’s October diary response rate was 10 percent higher than last year’s, he said. “That’s because we have invested in priority mail; we have invested in larger incentives. People know the brand.”