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Nielsen To Increase Sample Sizes In Local TV Markets

Nielsen said it will expand the number of homes being measured for television ratings in 46 markets now equipped with either Local People Meters or set meters, a move it said should make TV ratings more stable and reliable.

In 15 of the biggest 25 markets in the country – ones where homes are equipped with Local People Meters – the number of sample homes will increase by an average of 30% by late 2015, the company said. The breakdown is: 200 more homes in Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Miami and Denver this year (those were previously announced); 300 more homes in New York City and Los Angeles next year; and 200 more homes next year in Charlotte, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and Phoenix.

In the 31 markets just below the LPM level – the “set meter” markets -- Nielsen will expand the sample by 200 homes in each market over the next two years. Adding those 6,200 homes is about a 50% increase in sample size across the set-meter market footprint, the company said.

The more homes that Nielsen measures, the greater the chance of being able to measure TV viewing regardless of how small the network is or how obscure the time period, minimizing the number of "zero-rated" periods reported.

“Nielsen is committed to continuous improvement of quality local television measurement now and into the future. With this supplemental expansion, our local media clients will see increased stability through expanded metered samples and electronic measurement to diary markets that never had metered samples,” Matt O’Grady, executive vice president and managing director of local media at Nielsen, said in a release.

Nielsen has been working on ways to bolster its core household panels' data with other databases, including consumer purchase information, in addition to making the samples bigger and improving the home-measuring technology. (For more on Nielsen's efforts, see this cover story from September 2013, "Nielsen's Numbers Game.")

“We think high-quality panels that are representative of the market and provide lots of detailed demographic information will always be the foundation for whatever we do,” Shad Family, senior vice president of local product leadership at Nielsen, told Multichannel News. “We also know that we need to work with other large data sets and be able to devise ways to combine data sets, leverage our high-quality data and bring in other data sets to provide a more robust measurement.”

Nielsen also has been working to improve ratings gathering in smaller markets than those, installing “code readers” in some homes that have to date only kept diaries of what is watched and when and by doing electronic measurement year round in diary markets, not just during four sweeps periods.