I Was a Nielsen Household


Most people are familiar with the Nielsen, the company with the ratings that determine television programming. I’ve always been jealous of Nielsen households, those people with the power to decide that “The Bachelor” and sports are awesome and that “Firefly” and “Pushing Daisies” weren’t. I have also always wanted to have my say with Nielsen, informing the company of what is great TV (“Firefly” and “Pushing Daisies”) and what is awful (“The Bachelor” and sports).

In December, I received a survey from Nielsen asking for information about my household: how many people reside in it, how many TVs I have, whether I have cable, etc. Included was $2 for my time, and the letter said that if I was selected as a Nielsen household I would receive another $5. But I didn’t return my survey for the cash. I returned it so I could voice my opinion about television programming.

With only one person in my house, no children, two TVs and basic (analog) cable, I expected Nielsen to throw my survey out the car window while driving on the freeway. I fit some demographic they were looking for, though, because I received a phone call that I was selected to become a Nielsen household. It was a very exciting day.

I always imagined that Nielsen households had some sort of high-tech monitoring device connected to each TV to track what the family was watching and electronically send that information to Nielsen. I also imagined that Nielsen households had these magic boxes on their TVs for a year or longer.

I was wrong. When I received my packet from Nielsen, it included “diaries” for each television, instructions about how to use the diaries and, as promised, $5.

As a Nielsen household, I had to track each television’s activity for one week in the diaries. One diary was assigned to each TV, and that diary stayed with that TV throughout the week. Tracking a TV’s activity not only required recording what shows I watched, but it also included recording when the TV was off, when it was on but I wasn’t listening or watching. When the week was over, I sent my diaries in to Nielsen.

During my weeklong journey to show Nielsen just what good television programming is all about, there were no sports in my diaries, no reality TV or obnoxious daytime talk shows. I showed my support for Conan O’Brien rather than Jay Leno. Maybe some of the good shows I like on TV will survive and make an appearance next season.



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Amy I'm so jealous! I always wanted to be a Nielsen household - however, they always disqualified me for being employed in the advertising industry. Apparently they don't do that anymore. Here's to hoping you watched enough Deep End to keep it on another season:)

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