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Nielsen Enrolls in College

Nielsen Media Research Monday began including the viewing of college students living away from home in its National People Meter ratings.

The introduction of this Extended Home viewing marks the first time Nielsen is including viewing by members of sample households living outside of the home in its ratings. Previously, television viewing by students in Nielsen families was only included when they were watching in their parents’ homes during school vacations or visits home, according to Nielsen.

Under the new system, viewing by sample students in their dorm rooms or off-campus apartments will be treated as if it were coming from an additional set within their families' homes.

Their viewing while away at school will contribute to the ratings and viewing levels in the same way that it does when they are in the living rooms and bedrooms of their families' homes. Viewing will be included for students attending traditional colleges and universities, as well as trade schools, culinary institutes and other higher-education facilities.

“Nielsen is committed to continuously improving the scope of its television ratings, and adding college viewing to our ratings estimate provides a more complete picture of the overall television audience,” Sara Erichson, general manager of Nielsen National Services, said in a prepared statement.

The addition of college viewing comes after the successful completion of a three-year pilot program sponsored by several Nielsen clients, including Turner Broadcasting System, The WB (now The CW), CBS, MTV Networks, Fox and ESPN.

The first year of the pilot program demonstrated Nielsen’s ability to successfully recruit and install People Meters in college locations, including dormitories, sorority and fraternity houses and off-campus apartments. The second and third years focused on understanding the ratings impact of including college-location viewing.

The addition of college viewing to the Nielsen ratings could have a significant impact on the performance of some television programs.

For example, in November, the most recent period for which pilot data is available, among men 18-24, the program with the largest rating increase when college viewing was added was Comedy Central’s Drawn Together, which increased by 1.2 rating points, or 63% of its total viewing.

The impact of adding college viewing among women was greatest on primetime dramas with strong female characters, and the impact of adding college viewing among men was greatest on football and animation programming.