Back to Class in the Ratings Game

Media buyers expect little impact on overall TV ratings as a result of Nielsen Media Research’s inclusion of college student viewing into its national people meter sample, which began on Jan. 29.

“With the exception of MTV, Comedy Central and a few other cable networks that actually sell ads based on that particular 18-24 demo, the rating points for the other networks are not going to change that much,” said Lyle Schwartz, svp, media research director, GroupM.

Preliminary Nielsen results during the test period showed that college viewers increased adults 18-24 ratings between 3 and 5 percent. But when factored into the typical broadcast or cable network adults 18-34 or 18-49 ad buy, ratings grew only 1 percent, Schwartz said. “Daytime ratings, particularly soap operas, will be helped maybe another few percentage points, because there are a lot more college kids watching daytime than people realize,” he added.

Agency research execs believe that while the addition of college viewing will offer a more accurate indicator of who is watching, it won’t generate any ad revenue windfalls. “I would think the impact on the broader demos 18-34 and 18-49 will be minimal, particularly for the higher-rated programs,” argued Steve Sternberg, evp of audience analysis for Magna Global USA. “But for smaller, more targeted cable shows or networks, like Adult Swim or MTV2, the percent gains among 18-24s could be more significant.”

According to Nielsen pilot data (Nielsen, like Adweek, is owned by The Nielsen Co.), the show that got the biggest bump from the inclusion of college women 18-24 was ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, which rose by 4.6 rating points, or 5.3 percent in the demo. Among men 18-24, Comedy Central’s Drawn Together grew the most, with an additional 1.2 rating points or 6.3 percent.

“We’ve only seen limited data from Nielsen so far, so we really need to wait and see what the actual impact will be,” Sternberg said.