Soon-to-be-released results of a Nielsen Media Research study on extended home viewership could permanently alter the reported demographics of all television programs by virtue of including never-before-tracked college students.
In a private meeting last week in New York, Nielsen told select clients that its two-year study, which involved the installation of monitors in secondary homes and student residences, was successful and that results are being tabulated for release, sources said.
A Nielsen representative declined to release details of the study, but confirmed that efforts to track college viewing were successful. The data will be released to sponsoring clients within a month, then discussed at Nielsen’s national client meeting in March.
Viacom, Time Warner and Fox Broadcasting sponsored the study, and executives of those companies attended last week’s meeting, sources said.
Nielsen has not yet determined whether it will incorporate extended home viewing into its everyday monitoring and, if so, who will pay for such an expansion.
“The next steps are to get the final pieces of data and process them,” said Kerry Kielar, marketing communications manager at Nielsen. “The charter clients will get a first-glance view at that data. Once the data is released, we will be in discussion with our clients to determine if we should proceed and whether to implement one or both [college and vacation homes] into our syndicated national People Meter service.”
Currently, college students are tracked only when they view programs at their primary home residence, typically during summer and winter breaks.
Nielsen was initially uncertain whether schools would permit the installation of monitoring systems in dorms and whether the data would prove an accurate and useful addition to current measures. Sources said Nielsen is reporting success on all counts.
“They were able to get into campus housing, people are cooperating and they’re capturing a significant amount of television viewing,” a source said. “Based on what we heard, this is a significant portion of out-of-home viewing that’s being missed, several hours a week.”
The study’s sponsors own network properties with younger-skewing programming that would benefit from Nielsen’s including a consistent representation of college students in its sampling. But Tim Brooks, head of research for Lifetime, said even networks with older demographics would benefit from the expansion.
“It’s certainly a good idea. It benefits far more networks than you would think,” Mr. Brooks said. “Measuring viewership outside the home is something a lot of us have been pushing for a long time. About half of all out-of-home viewing is college viewing, while places like bars and restaurants are only about 7 percent.”
Sources said Nielsen’s college access was eased by an endorsement from the NCAA. The NCAA conference tournaments were the highest-rated week among college viewers during the study, sources said.