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  • Writer's pictureRobert Eckelman

Nielsen Gauge- worth a look, remember to inspect what you expect. Consult several sources.

I have been in cable TV or streaming since 1986. That’s 37 years. For the entire 37 years, I have never been a fan of Nielsen. The majority of those years it was the only thing we had. There were times when Arbitron was rating TV, and they were completely different. ComScore was also introduced to the market somewhere around 2020 and they were also very different from Nielsen ratings.

Here are my issues.

Nielsen's margin of error is huge and getting larger.

The tighter the demo and the smaller the rating the larger the margin of error. We are in a period of tight demos and small ratings. Nielsen ratings are not ratings, they are estimates. Here ‘are 2 article I found when Googling Nielsen ratings margin of error. If you speak with people at Nielsen, you should ask them directly what their margin of error is and make sure they give you a succinct answer.

The Nielsen sample size is ridiculously small.

Nielsen sample size- as we grew from 3 Networks (ABC, CBS, NBC- Fox came later) to hundreds this sample size didn't change much. To the best of my knowledge, there are 21,000 Nielsen meters for terrestrial television and cable for the entire US. It may have changed this is the best I can find keep in mind Nielsen will do their best to expand that number. Just read this article they're trying to make it seem much larger but numbers don't lie. When you break these numbers down by market, they're extremely small. When I left traditional television in 2018, I think Nielsen had about 1200 meters in the Tampa DMA. 1200 meters needed to represent viewing from over 3 million people. That just doesn't add up.

Nielsen Gauge, more Nielsen nonsense. The numbers are great and I like what it says but they are not accurate. Nielsen changes the methodology and I would love to know the actual sample size

I will look at Gauge for trending and I liked the numbers I see, but this is typical Nielsen nonsense. To begin with, what is the sample size. I think is 14,000 I only found that answer once it was an article in Forbes. I do search for it often and I find nothing. The Gauge sample size it is more secret than the recipe for Coca-Cola.

More troubling than the missing sample size is the changing methodology. Believe it or not when Gauge first started Nielsen was double counting. When someone was watching a cable network on a streaming service for example ESPN on Sling, or even a traditional network on Sling, Nielsen would double count that household. They would give credit to traditional broadcast or cable and to streaming. In February of 2023 Nielsen Gauge Changed. This is taken directly from the Nielsen site

Linear streaming (as defined by the aggregation of viewing to vMVPD/MVPD apps) is excluded from the streaming category as the broadcast and cable content viewed through these apps’ credits to its respective category. This methodological change was implemented with the February 2023 interval.

Nielsen is no longer double counting the viewership, but they are taking viewing away from streaming and giving it back to Traditional Networks and Cable, how can that be. I wonder who pays cable the most? Because Nielsen Gauge takes linear viewing out of streaming they are missing a lot of quality streaming networks such as sling, Fubo, Hulu live TV, YouTube live TV and much more.

They have even taken YouTube and given it two different definitions. The YouTube you see on Gauge is user-generated content (UGC). Nielsen is now calling this YouTube Main it is not professionally produced content from the networks typically watch. This has created a lot of confusion but that's what Nielsen does best.

Here's my true belief streaming has grown so fast that there may not be any accurate sources. I would look at several reliable sources, and delete the lows & highs. At some point in time, we will get better measurement, but I don't see it coming soon.


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