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Nielsen to Report HD Ratings

May 3, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Five years after networks began regularly airing some shows in HD, Nielsen announced plans this week to report HD universe estimates.
The measurement company will begin tracking HD ratings in November, with regular reports available starting in January.
The figures will help HD networks determine their viewership and quantify it to advertisers. Stand-alone HD networks such as Discovery HD Theater, Universal HD and HD Net are currently not rated.
“Nielsen’s plan to measure HD homes will enable programmers to pitch HD to advertisers and for advertisers to make more educated HD advertising choices,” said Todd Chanko, a media analyst with Jupiter Research. “While there will inevitably be some losers-just as in the SD world-Nielsen measurement will be a critical force in helping the HD platform grow.”
Currently, Nielsen measurements for HD simulcast networks such as NBC.com and ESPN HD are rolled into the ratings of their regular SD networks, so HD viewing is counted in those cases. But since the HD viewership is not broken out, it’s unclear how many viewers are watching any given show in HD vs. SD. Also, some have criticized Nielsen’s HD simulcast sample as being too small to provide accurate measurement of the HD audience.
When Discovery Communications premiered its pivotal “Planet Earth” series this year, it turned to Nielsen competitor TNS Media Research to track the viewership on HD Theater. (TNS reported HD Theater added 15 percent more viewers to the Discovery Channel premiere ratings.)
Just because HD ratings are available doesn’t mean stand-alone HD networks will automatically have Nielsen tracking, however. Some networks might be disinclined to opt in for Nielsen tracking if they suspect their audience is smaller than what advertisers assume.
Nielsen also said it is working with clients to develop more precise definitions for HDTV homes. One definition would encompass homes that are equipped with an HDTV set and tuner (“HD capable”); another would include only homes that are actively receiving at least one HD network in addition to having the proper equipment (“HD receivable”).
Only about half of homes with an HDTV set are thought to actually watch HD signals, either via a subscription service or over-the-air antenna.

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