People meters going to college


NEW YORK -- Nielsen Media Research said Monday that its people meters would begin to count college students who live away from home.

The decision helps answer some concerns by the television industry, particularly cable channels, who have long complained that out-of-home viewing (including college students) haven't been counted. That could mean an average 15% lift in adults 18-34 ratings according to the Total TV Monitor, a diary service that was developed by ESPN and others to figure out how much out-of-home viewing was being missed in traditional measures. That's not only daytime programming but also sports, particularly college football and the NCAA basketball tournament.

"The college segment is clearly the most important segment of out-of-home viewing," said Artie Bulgrin, senior vp research/sales development at ESPN. "It's not everything, but it's the most important."

Nielsen will begin Jan. 29 to report on the viewing of college students living outside their homes into what is called the Extended Home measurement of the National People Meter. It's the first time Nielsen has ever counted viewers who are in the sample households but don't live in the home. Before that, college students' viewing would count in the household. It's believed that college students watch an average of 30 hours a week of television, based on monthly studies conducted so far.

"You tell me if they are watching television when they go to school, or if zero is the right number (to count for viewing)," said Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at Turner Broadcasting. "Zero is not the right number."

Turner would benefit from an expected double-digit increase in demo ratings for its Adult Swim, which has already been written into guarantees as Nielsen and Turner have been tracking this for months already.

"It's going to be significant," Wakshlag said.

Bulgrin said the adults 18-34 demographic would be affected the most by the change because college students mostly fall into the adults 18-24 segment. There's significant lift in ratings during the daytime, after morning classes but before evening events, Bulgrin said. Sports ratings lift could be even more, he said.

Nielsen Media Research is owned by VNU, which also owns The Hollywood Reporter.