Nielsen National TV Ratings Panel Expanding More than Threefold

As a part of its effort to roll out its Local People Meter into 56 U.S. markets, media-tracking company Nielsen will see its national television ratings panel more than triple in size.

The LPM households will be folded into the national sample over the next five years, with the transition complete in 2011.

Nielsen’s National People Meter currently stands at 12,000 homes and 35,000 people. After the transition, set to begin in November, it will have 37,000 homes and reach 100,000 people. Nielsen pointed out, however, that the “effective” sample size will only be 17,000 homes after the geographic distribution of the 56 LPMs is considered. The current “effective” size is 10,000 homes.

“Nielsen is committed to continuously improving the quality of its television measurement, and this expansion will be a major step forward in the accuracy and the flexibility of our national television panel,” said Sara Erichson, executive vice president of client services for Nielsen North America. “With a panel of 100,000 people, we can more precisely pinpoint the viewing of all demographic groups and dig deeper into the audience levels for networks of all sizes.”

Nielsen’s NPM is used to generate ratings for broadcast, cable and syndicated programming. Electronic meters measure what the household is watching and who in the household is watching what.

Nielsen hopes the increased sample size will give it leverage as consumers eschew traditional methods of viewing content and switch to digital-video recorders, broadband and mobile technologies. Nielsen’s initiative, Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2), launched in June 2006 and seeks to measure not only what people are watching, but where they are watching it and how “engaged” they are in the programming.

“Our plans for out-of-home viewing, streaming video on the Internet and ‘third-screen’ devices such as cell phones and hand-held video players are based on integrating these measurements with traditional television measurement. This much larger national sample creates the necessary foundation for an integrated measurement approach," said Scott Springer, product leader of audience measurement for Nielsen’s media segment.

Nielsen has installed LPMs in the 10 largest markets, with plans for three more in 2007, fine in 2008, 12 in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 14 in 2011. When they are activated, they will be folded into the NPM measurements.