Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nielsen Ratings Suck!

There have been a high number of shows cancelled this year, some of them being replaced by cheaper reality shows. Could the escalating number of cancelled shows be tied into money more than it is falling ratings? There can be no debate that the Nielsen Ratings system is terribly archaic. Implemented in the 1950s as a marketing tool to track how audiences responded to programming, the Nielsen Ratings system used a sample of the population to gauge what would air on television - what would last a season, what would last several seasons. Flash forward to the 2000s, and there are more people in the population, and there are now several ways to watch television - "recordable" cable boxes, smart phones, iPads, iTunes, iTV, Hulu, Netflix and internet download are only SOME of the ways to do it. The problem is: most of these are not counted in the Neilsen Ratings system.

As more and more people gravitate towards "non-traditional" methods of watching their television, and Neilsen not keeping up, how accurate is the decision making when it comes to dropping the axe on a lot of the programs that are being canned? Is it possible that a drop in ratings is actually a reflection of the changing behaviors of today's audience? With so much to do, and so many shows for our viewing pleasure, the on-demand trend has become the cornerstone of most people's viewing habits. Remember the days when you had to rush home in the hopes of catching your favorite program from the beginning? That's no longer an issue nowadays - you don't have to wait for a rerun, you can just head to your most convenient on-demand outlet and watch it there, set your DVR to record it, find the episode for download on the internet, or wait for it to show up on DVD if you're patient enough.

The Neilsen Rating system has fundamentally changed very little sense its inception - a select group of about 25,000 households are chosen based on region and key demographics. This small group determines what the rest of the country of about 3 million people gets to watch. With today's information technology, do we really need to be tied down by this old system to make such decisions?

Why not utilize tracking systems that report on the number of internet downloads, program streaming sessions, DVR episode recordings, etc. to more accurately determine which programs deserve the chopping block?

What are your thoughts on this?

Next time: I'll touch on the more conspiracy theory-oriented idea that perhaps a lot of shows were cancelled due to budget.

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