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Nielsen Issues Report on 18-34 Decline

Nielsen Media Research Monday issued a 43-page study on the decline of young-male viewers in primetime that defended the accuracy of its methodology and data.

The ratings service, in the executive summary of its study, said it had performed extensive tests and rechecked its ratings numbers for young men and remained "confident in the accuracy of the audience data we are producing."

Nielsen has come under fire from the "Big Four" broadcast networks for the drop-off in young-male viewership this season in primetime, prompting the ratings service to prepare a detailed report on what is causing the decline.

Nielsen blamed the 7.7% decrease in the primetime viewing of men 18-34 on a number of factors.

These young men are watching the same number of events, but for shorter periods of time, Nielsen said, citing this as one explanation for the lower ratings. This drop-off amounts to a decline of 4.5 minutes of primetime viewing per day for men 18-34, according to the report.

The use of video games and DVDs is also up "substantially" for men 18-24, and this is another factor in the male-viewing decline, Nielsen said in its study.

Despite speculation from the broadcasters to the contrary, a number of factors indicated that young men in Nielsen’s sample are reliably pushing their "People Meter" buttons, according to the ratings service. For example, the number of events these young males log in for remains virtually the same as last year, but these young men are spending less time with a channel once they tune in to it, according to Nielsen’s report.

Broadcast and pay cable are seeing the biggest drops in young-male viewership, while ad-supported cable is seeing "slight gains," the ratings service said.

Nielsen has added more Hispanics to its national sample. But according to its study, "Improved Hispanic representation has had a minimal impact on viewing: We estimate that effect to be approximately 4.6 seconds, or under 2% of the 4.5-minute decline," the company added.

All in all, Nielsen said it believes its methodological improvements account for about 40% of the 4.5-minute decline in primetime viewing by the young men.