Nielsen Apologizes for Flawed Sweeps

Nielsen Media Research subscribers in June received an apologetic email from Nielsen, explaining that the company failed to meet its goals for obtaining completed TV viewer surveys in certain markets for the May ratings.

The surveys or diaries of TV watching habits, which Nielsen relies on viewers to fill out and submit to supply the data for ratings books, overall came in at 10 percent “lower than expected,” according to the email.

The Little Rock market, too, was 10 percent below target, said Chuck Spohn, general manager of KLRT-TV, Channel 16. Nielsen’s goal was 730 diaries, but only got 660, a 14 percent drop in submitted diaries compared with May 2011, he said.

Most of KLRT’s income comes from ad agencies that pay close attention to Nielsen data, Spohn said.

“This directly impacts the financial stability of the TV station. I have to be very mindful of the data that comes to make sure it’s valid,” Spohn said.  

Michael Caplan, general manager of KTHV-TV, Channel 11, said the May numbers were inconsistent with recent local and national averages, showing that viewership dropped 12 percent in the age 25 to 54 demographic since 2011.

“Right now, for our part, we’re having conversations with Nielsen with regards to the concerns we have with the May ’12 results,” Caplan said.

The general manager of KATV-TV, Channel 7, Mark Rose, said May’s diary problems weren’t new. But KATV, which consistently rates as the No. 1 station in the market, has seen viewer growth over multiple ratings periods.

“I know it’s not the first time being an issue, but I don’t think it by any means flaws the information,” Rose said. “We always say, ‘One book doesn’t make a trend.’”

MediaDailyNews reported last week that Nielsen plans to double its surveyed sampling size, among other changes.