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Nielsen conclusions are clearly wrong


Published: 17 February, 2012


A number of you out there will subscribe to a Nielsen service and live by its numbers, but any service which continues to express the belief, without openly questioning itself, that US families watch more and more TV with each quarter, until it almost takes up more than their working or sleeping hours - has no place telling us where the industry is headed. You all must feel very short-changed.

Everything that is intuitive tells you that this statistic really is not true, and if it's NOT true, then why do we trust Nielsen? US viewing of ordinary broadcast TV, whether it is paid or free to air, now amounts to 146 hours and 45 minutes a month in the US, a rise of an hour and 17 minutes over its 2010 figure.

There are lots of opportunities for Nielsen to muddy the picture and it does this time and time again - quite openly and deliberately and puts little asterisks by its findings to point out that it has changed it methodology this year yet again. For instance, in its report it says that time shifted TV is watched on average 10 hours 51 minutes a month, less than 7.5% of the time.

The actual calculation is the total number of hours watching DVRs, divided by all US homes who watch any kind of TV, and it very quietly does reveal the number of DVR hours within just DVR homes, which is more like 24.5 hours a month, around 17% of the time.

Nielsen wants to make it look as though the humble DVR, which customers more or less always use to fast forward through adverts, is less of a threat to the advertising world than it really is?

Perhaps this is also why Nielsen underestimates the number of online viewing hours. People watch video for four hours and 31 minutes a month on the internet, it says. What it means is that people who watch (a lot of) TV over the internet (a very small percentage), when averaged across 291 million people, comes down to just 4.5 hours a month. So people who have Netflix or a rival service, watch something like the one hour a day, something revealed openly by researchers like comScore and TDG, and this 30 hours-plus a month would look like too much of an eyesore (it amounts to over 20% of total viewing) and would point to cord cutting projections.

Actually when you add this up, perhaps this is where all the increased watching time comes from. Some 20 million home are watching online through Netflix and others for over 20% of the time, and others are watching the DVR, and skipping through ads almost 17% of the time.

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