TV ratings to include students in 2007

The method used to calculate national ratings for network television soon will include the TCU students. Those living in dorms, Greek housing, college on-campus apartments and off-campus housing will be included in the Nielsen National People Meter Sample in 2007.

The Nielsen Ratings, a system offered in more than 40 countries developed by Nielsen Media Research, determines audience size and what programs audiences are watching. To calculate a rating for a particular program, the company divides the number of viewers watching that show by the total number of television owners.

Nielsen’s clients, like CBS, FOX, MTV and ESPN, wanted the ratings to include college students to maintain the integrity of the sample, said Laura James, vice president of client communications for Nielsen.

She said only college students whose families are already monitored by Nielsen will be asked to use People Meters, which are devices attached to televisions that allow Nielsen to develop ratings for different programs based on what the viewer watches.

Gerald Grotta, an emeritus professor in the Schieffer School of Journalism and president of Grotta Marketing Research, Inc., said: “With all the talk about the aging Baby Boomers turning 60, maybe we need some of the much smaller segment of college-age students to help balance things. Otherwise, we’ll end up with nothing but reruns of Golden Girls and commercials for Depends.”

Nielsen Media Research completed a two-year pilot program including college students and found more accurate results for the ratings, James said.

James said she is confident that People Meters will be welcomed on college campuses because the students and colleges in the pilot program allowed Nielsen to track viewing habits on campus.

Grotta said he thinks including college students in the survey will give everyone a better understanding of the television audience.

“For those advertisers who want to reach this age group, why not count (the students)?” Grotta said.