Wait, What? The Twitter TV Ratings That Nielsen and Twitter Announced Won’t Get Included in the TV Ratings?

Categories: Internet TV,New TV Technology

Written By

March 24th, 2013


We sometimes take it for granted that folks understand that the primary purpose of the Nielsen TV Ratings is to facilitate the sales of commercial TV advertising. That the Nielsen Ratings don't do plenty of things that many fans wish they would do, is old news. Also old news: that's because they're not supposed to do those things or designed to do them. The Nielsen Ratings are not supposed to be a popularity metric.

Why aren't iTunes, Amazon and Google Play views included in the Nielsen Ratings? Because not only do they not carry the same ads that ran on TV, they don't carry any advertising at all.

So I wanted to get out in front of the curve. The forthcoming new  “Nielsen Twitter TV Ratingwill be completely separate from the Nielsen TV Ratings. So next season if anyone asks if Arrow's overnight ratings include all the tweeting, you can definitively tell them "no!" On the plus side they will include any DVR viewing up to 3am after the telecast.

The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings is a separate product for a mostly (arguably completely) separate purpose. Nielsen is a global market research firm that does and sells many things besides the Nielsen TV ratings. The Twitter product will be one of those other things. That product, which will measure Twitter engagement with specific programming, is aimed at helping TV networks market more efficiently on Twitter and better execute cross promotional marketing (like when your TV screen implores you to tweet about the show you're watching with a special hashtag).

We can debate about how the data will be used, but there’s no arguing about this: it won’t be counted in the Nielsen TV Ratings.

  • Claudia

    Ok I understand that, but what about Nielsen TV ratings start implementing a new way of tracking ratings other then only NIELSEN BOXES, I live here in the USA and feel like I live in a foreign country, so many of the people I talk to dont own or have a box so our viewership is not counted.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @Claudia: Nielsen will begin including some small percentage (currently less than 5%) of homes that do not have what is considered a traditionally connected TV. But they will do that by including the same percentage of folks in their panel, and they will have the “Nielsen boxes.”

  • Spike

    arent there only like 30.000 households actually with a nielsen box yet the us has how many people again? its so silly in this digital age. it shouldnt be a problem to implement it on any digital receiver device

  • outlawz

    ^ its al about money im sure they can even make a tv with the box inside but who gonna pay for that nielsen, tv makers [all brands of tv outhere], etc


    I believe this is a conspiracy to keep Community from getting better ratings

  • Tyson

    Claudia, if your friends have Nielsen boxes, they aren’t supposed to tell you.

    Spike, many people would object on privacy grounds to having their TV-viewing habits tracked. A judge would quickly side with them and stop mandatory tracking. Without mandatory tracking, we’d be left with something looking last night’s Kids’ Choice Awards. Self-selecting surveys are worse than useless to networks and advertisers; they’re harmful since such biased information would lead to making incorrect renew/cancel decisions.

  • Mr. me

    I’m shocked, shocked I say! Nielsen backing off a major announcement? Unheard of…..

    In case you couldn’t tell, that was sarcasm….

  • Josh

    Nielsen is extremely specific in selecting homes for boxes. It’s the same principle behind why political pollsters can only call a few thousand people and yet accurately predict an election within a 3% margin of error. If you get the right demographic cross-sample, the number of samples doesn’t matter. Quality > quantity.

  • Evan

    There’s no way that Nielsen will ever really add it to a higher percentage of people because it will probably cost them too much money. Really what we need is a little competition THEN Nielsen would probably change their ways. But right now there’s no competition so there’s no incentive to really change their ways. If another company came along and did like 100,000 households I’m sure their ratings would seem more reliable.

  • Douglas from Brazil

    How many households have a Nielsen box? And how many millions of people are part of Nielsen families?
    How they know that a person or more are watching TV at specific time?

  • Michael

    Do any regular members here have access to a Nielsen box? Just curious.

  • obisgirl

    More people probably have a twitter than those stupid Nielsen boxes.

  • JED

    The current Neilsen ratings system is a laughable, archaic joke. It is about as worthy of note as a rotary telephone in this era. I agree, there should be competition to force a far better and realistic result to their rating systems for viewers. Also, a show that gets 2 million viewers on a cable network would last one viewing on a major network, yet those cable networks are flourishing… and winning awards. In a country with over 300 million people, to sample so few, makes for a ridiculous and pathetic excuse for a result based in any kind of worth. But, until the networks demand better culpability and cling to their ‘rotary ratings system’, great shows will be axed that are loved and a tiny fraction of the actual viewers of television will be the only voices heard that will decide what we see or do not see. Isn’t that sad? Imagine less than 1% of the entire amount of people watching TV at any time has their opinions actually matter. Sad and pathetic in 2013.

  • Meanie

    I was apart of the Nielsen family and let me tell you its REALLY annoying. So trust more homes are not gonna want to participate.

    I think Digital tracking would be good, just like Nielsen boxes they can ask families whould they wanna be tracked digitally. I think personally more teenagers & kids wouldn’t mind be tracked but Adults they may not be that for being tracked.

  • Anna Bones Clarkwood


    I understand that statistics allows for small sample to be w/n a small margin of error for a much larger population.

    I know it’s not just political votes but also such things as diseases & even how many LGBT there are.


    I wonder what % of the population gets that full “booklet” from the census bureau, that comes out every 10 years. I bet it is way more than ~30,000.

    Also, ad viewing is more than just “one person vs another person”. There are way way more variables that matter. Just to start, hundreds of channels, 24hrs a day 7 days a week etc.

    Another “small” part is this “invasion of privacy” issue means that that segment of the population, which is more than enough to matter, isn’t being represented.

  • Meanie

    I was apart of that Nielsen family and trust when I say it was annoying. So I can see why its hard to get more families to participate.

    I think would they should do is ask ppl would they wanna participate in digital tracking. I know more kids/teenagers probably wouldn’t mind but adults might not be so for it or acceptence to it.

  • Love It

    Wow , I like this Twitter Ratings system. Way better than Nielsen Boxes ratings.

  • Chris

    Well it may still be helpful. If a show is getting mediocre regular ratings but huge social interaction, perhaps advertisers will look into advertising on that show differently.

  • Anna Bones Clarkwood

    In the end though, the ranking of shows probably remains close to the same.

    Meaning, the shows on the bottom will stay on the bottom.

    True, shows get their $ based on ad revenue, so a bigger sample would help.

    Also, as long as the networks/ad companies trust Nielsen, it doesn’t matter what we think. The Networks/ad companies have the funds to start their own/ increase the number of boxes. So, it must be accurate enough for them.

  • Jon

    “If another company came along and did like 100,000 households I’m sure their ratings would seem more reliable.”

    That’s quite a bit of investment for a company without any guarantee of success. If their numbers end up similar to Nielsen’s, they’ve wasted millions. If they don’t, the numbers could be better or worse. And they’ve still got to convince networks and advertisers to sign contracts.

    And even with 100,000 households, that’s still less than .10% of the total households. People will still feel it’s too small. You’d have to get a million or more households before critics would start to come around. And that’s just financially impossible.

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