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Nielsen Says National TV Panel Now Has 42,000 Households

Family watching TV
Nielsen said its National TV viewing panel now covers some 101,000 individual viewers. (Image credit: Siri Stafford/Getty Images)

Nielsen said its U.S. National TV panel now has 42,000 households, covering 101,000 people whose viewing is directly measured to create the company’s ratings.

The panel shrunk during the pandemic from 36,975 homes to just 29,456 during the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to viewing being undercounted by Nielsen. Nielsen's problems maintaining its panel led to its accreditation being suspended by the Media Rating Council.

Nielsen critics perpetually complain that the panel is too small to determine what millions of people are watching, especially as viewing becomes more fragmented and consumers turn to streaming. Alternative measurement companies measure viewing using big data from millions of set-top boxes and smart TVs.

Nielsen is planning to roll out its new cross-platform TV measurement system — Nielsen One — later this year. It will still be based on the panel but will also incorporate big data. 

Nielsen noted that it has completed most of the work needed to be re-accredited by the MRC and expects to complete the requirements for an audit next quarter.

Nielsen is in the process of being acquired by a private equity group led by Elliott Asset Management. Nielsen’s stock price jumped 21% to $27.52 a share Tuesday when it announced it was close to a deal that would bring WindAcre Partnership into the private equity group. WindAcre is a large shareholder that has objected to the buyout bid.

Nielsen’s panel includes a subset of 21,000 households that are part of the company’s streaming meter panel. Nielsen said it plans to grow the streaming meter panel over time.

“We are extremely proud of hitting the milestone of steadily maintaining at or above the target of 42,000 panel households, and the progress we have made in building a robust ID system for the digital ecosystem on our road to Nielsen One,” Nielsen chief operating officer Karthik Rao said. “We continue to be one of the only media measurement companies that provides fully independent, audited and representative data in the marketplace.”

Nielsen maintains that its panel helps make its measurement system the industry’s gold standard. In addition to its national panel, Nielsen has a local-TV panel of 11,000 households and 25,000 people. It also has an a 77,000-person panel of Personal People Meter audio users. There are 75,000 people on Nielsen’s metered digital panel and another 250,000 digital panelists who are not metered but are used to enhance its panel assets. ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.