Last week I wrote about why TV ratings don't measure online viewing yet (it's because their sole purpose is to set TV advertising rates, not measure popularity), but there are enough comments about DVR TV viewing measurements that I thought I'd follow up with another post.
Q: I watch TV mostly on my DVR. That information's certainly being collected and used by Nielsen in the TV ratings, isn't it?
A: No, it's not, unless you're in a "Nielsen family" being measured in their national audience sample.
Nielsen has between 20,000 and 25,000 households in its national people meter (pictured above) sample. Their Live and DVR TV viewing is measured, including which members of the household are doing the watching, and extrapolated to represent the US TV population. That's where all the ratings you read about here (and elsewhere) ultimately come from.
While it's likely that your cable or satellite company (as well as TiVo, if you're one of the few who still has one) collects data on your DVR viewing habits, and other companies aggregate that data and sell it to advertisers, networks and other customers, as yet it does not contain the demographic information collected by Nielsen that national advertisers require, so that data is typically used as a supplement, not a substitution for, the Nielsen provided data.