Digital ratings a no go

Jun 17, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Although 422 TV stations had launched digital television operations as of last week, the industry may not know until the end of the year-at the very earliest-how many consumers are actually watching the new broadcasts.
To the dismay of some broadcasters, that’s the soonest Nielsen Media Research is predicting it will be in a position to start measuring DTV viewership.
A broadcast industry source told Electronic Media that broadcasters believe Nielsen should do more to help expedite the DTV rollout-a burden that the Federal Communications Commission has asked broadcasters, the cable TV industry and consumer electronics manufacturers to share.
“Everybody’s being asked to spend a lot of money and effort to create consumer demand, and Nielsen’s acting as if none of those efforts are happening,” said one broadcast source.
But Jack Loftus, Nielsen VP of communications, said Nielsen is testing an attachment to existing equipment that could make DTV measurement possible, at least on a “stopgap basis,” by year-end.
“I don’t see what the big whoop is about,” Mr. Loftus said. “Up until now, there didn’t seem to be any hue and cry to roll the new system out because of the scarcity of DTV.”
Mr. Loftus also said Nielsen has not felt the heat to measure DTV viewership, because only four of its 30,000 sample homes are broadcast DTV homes.
In addition, he said, Nielsen is testing a regular DTV measurement system, the so-called A/P meter. That, according to Mr. Loftus, should be ready to roll out in a couple of years.
“If we begin to encounter more DTV sets in our samples, then obviously we’re going to need to accelerate the rollout of the A/P meter system,” Mr. Loftus said.