Oprah's Promotional Tweet Lands Her in Hot Water With Nielsen

3:17 PM PST 02/13/2012 by Alex Ben Block
George Burns/Harpo Productions

The talk show maven later apologized for her rule-violating comment, but the ratings service may add an asterisk to OWN ratings for Sunday evening.

It was Oprah Winfrey’s turn to learn a lesson Sunday night.

Winfrey, with her show Oprah’s Next Chapter about to air on her OWN network and facing competition from the Grammys, tweeted “Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if u have a Nielsen box.”

PHOTOS: Oprah Through the Years

Aside from making her sound a bit desperate, the tweet violated the rules of the powerful Nielsen Media Research organization that dominates the TV ratings business by mentioning she wanted to especially reach those with electronic boxes in their homes that are used to measure viewership. That is not permitted.

Of the more than 100 million U.S. TV homes, some 25,000 get such boxes. Results are then used to project out what everyone is watching. Those numbers are used to set advertising rates and can make or break a show, a personality or a career — so they are taken very seriously.

When notified of her violation, Winfrey immediately pulled back and her spokesperson issued the following statement: "I removed the tweet at the request of Nielsen. I intended no harm and apologize for the reference. — Oprah Winfrey."

ANALYSIS: Oprah's Big Return to TV Marred By Struggle, Deep Financial Woes at OWN 

It is unclear what action Nielsen will take as a result of the tweet. The ratings service put out a statement as well: “In accordance with our policies and procedures, Nielsen is reviewing this incident with our clients and we may withhold, break out and/or make a note in the ratings. We take any violation of our policy seriously and will work with clients to resolve the situation.”

“A. Falsified Reporting or Attempts to Coerce Nielsen Panel Members. In the event that Nielsen receives evidence of attempts to single out panel members either to change their viewing habits or to falsify or otherwise influence or affect their reporting, Nielsen reserves the right to withhold a suspect report, or any part thereof, and/or to so note the occurrence in the published portions of a report.”

A Nielsen spokesperson told the New York Times that “an asterisk will be attached to OWN’s ratings at the time of day Ms. Winfrey’s message was sent, noting a ‘possible biasing effect.’ ”

An OWN spokesperson said she was not personally aware that Nielsen was going to put an asterisk next to the OWN ratings for that time period.

Marisa Guthrie contributed to this report.

comments powered by Disqus