The Nielsen Media Experience

Ever wondered how the Nielsen TV ratings work? Well, I was actually picked to be one of the people who did the ratings last week, and while it wasn’t exactly a rocket ride down the side of Mount Everest, I thought people might be interested in reading about how the whole thing works.

First of all, the Nielsen Media Research people are some of the most organized people I’ve ever dealt with.

To begin with, they called, asked me a few basic questions, and I agreed to do their survey. Then they sent me a letter telling me to look out for the survey, it should be arriving soon. Then the survey arrived along with $15 bucks they sent as payment for filling it out. Then, a couple of days later when the survey was due to start, they called again and asked if I was starting the survey. Then, at about the mid-way point, they called again to make sure I didn’t have any questions.

Like I said, we’re talking about very organized people.

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So next, I filled out the survey for 8 days (I do an extra day because I have TiVo) and I found something odd. You know how usually, if you write down let’s say, how much money you spend, you’ll find that you spent more than you thought? I figured it would be that way for TV, too. Oh, I don’t think I watch much TV, but really I do.


Actually, I watched MUCH LESS TV than I would have expected. In fact, I probably watch less TV than the vast majority of people reading this page. In 8 days, I only watched 9 1/2 hours of TV, including 4 hours on one day. As a matter of fact, on 2 of the days, I didn’t watch any TV at all (By the way, the big winners were House, Surface, and South Park. The losers were everything else).

What I’ve come to realize is that this is a byproduct of having TiVo. When you can use TiVo to record all of your favorite shows and then watch them at your leisure, you can chew through whole seasons of a show you like in 2 or 3 weeks. Then you get bored with that show, move on to the next one, and then do the same thing. Next thing you know, you’re down to a half a dozen shows you’re interested in, and since you never channel surf, you’re hardly watching TV. At least that’s how it has turned out with me anyway.

In any case, if anyone ever asks you if you actually know of anyone who has ever filled out one of those Nielsen surveys, you can give them my name.

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