Nielsen Kicks Off Biggest Expansion of TV Panel

Nielsen Co. will triple the size of its National People Meter TV-ratings panel by 2011, trying to increase the accuracy of its numbers and to provide more flexibility for measuring non-traditional television viewing, officials said Wednesday.

Nielsen’s NPM panel, which now encompasses about 12,000 U.S. households and 35,000 people, will increase to 37,000 homes and 100,000 people as the company completes the previously announced introduction of Local People Meters into 56 markets, and integrates these sample homes into the NPM.

The sample expansion begins this November, when three LPM markets are integrated into the national sample. This expansion will result in an “effective” sample size of 17,000 households after weighting for the geographical distribution of the 56 LPM markets is taken into account. The “effective” sample size of the NPM panel is now 10,000 households. 

Larger sample sizes are increasingly important due to the continuing fragmentation of television viewing. A larger sample also supports the more granular measurement that clients are requesting as the television industry moves in the direction of commercial minute ratings.

It will help Nielsen accomplish many of the objectives of its Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2) initiative, which seeks to measure televised video as it moves beyond the television set in the home to the Internet, hand-held devices and to platforms outside the house.

The NPM panel is used to produce ratings for national broadcasting, cable and syndicated television programming. It is composed of randomly selected households that reflect the overall U.S. population. Nielsen uses electronic meters to continuously measure what shows are being watched and who is watching them.

Until 2002, the NPM consisted of 5,000 households and about 15,000 people. Since then, Nielsen has installed LPMs in the 10 largest markets. Nielsen has announced plans to introduce LPMs in three more markets in 2007, five in 2008, 12 in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 14 in 2011.