T.V. Ratings System Essay, Research Paper
How was the rating industry started and how does entertainment-rating work? Since the beginning of radio and television, advertisers have been spending billions yearly in order to promote sales and gain business, so it just makes sense that they want to know if there advertising money is being put on the stations that are actually being listened to or watched. Because of this high demand of user information, companies began to come up with ways to monitor these activities without actually going to each household throughout the country. For this to happen devices had to be made that are compatible for everyday household use and could be used by anyone at that location. However the solution was conceived on finding this information about who listened or watched what and for how long it didn t matter, just as long as the advertisers knew where to put their advertisements when it came to the popularity of a station.
The beginning of this ongoing process of audience surveying began in the 1920s with radio when radio station owners grew curious about how many people actually listened to their stations. The broadcasters of these stations urged that listeners of their station filled out a post card verifying that they actually heard this request and also to state whether their stations signal was clear or not. This type of survey continued on for a while until advertising companies began to demand the estimated size of their listening audience in order to decide what stations that they would air their product advertising on. Nevertheless the American Association of Advertising and the Association of National Advertisers coincided to form the Cooperative Analysis of Broadcasting, or the CAB in 1930. From this came the first recorded method of audience recording called the telephone recall method. With this method 35 cities were chosen across the United States to have calls placed to random homes picked from a phone directory. From there they asked the residents to recall what programs they had been listening to. This was a start, but also a rough one due to the problem of forgetfulness. Even though this is more accurate than asking a person what they had listened to the night before, the human memory is not always correct or reliable. These methods of the CAB operated until 1946 when another company saw the opportunity at hand and seized the chance to begin a more accurate and more productive way to measure the audience. This new company called the C. E. Hooper introduced the telephone coincidental method, which is very similar to the telephone recall method in that household residents were asked if they were currently listening to the radio and what station or program they were tuned in to. This method was more accurate in that the questioned would not have to rely on their not so dependable memory. The results of this survey called Hooperatings were then sold to advertising agencies and broadcasters. This is as far as person-to-person telephone surveying went. From here on most if not all audience surveying was done mechanically through at home devices used to record the same data.
In 1942, a new company was unveiled called the A. C. Nielson Company. This new company was different from other rating companies in that the Nielson industry did not rely on only house-to-house telephone calls, but instead came up with a mechanical device called the audimeter. This audimeter was distributed to random households, this new device consisted of a sharp needle that marked a small sheet of paper each time the tuning knob was moved displaying what station was being listened to and how long the set was in use for, and after a certain period of time this device was to be sent in for analysis. This new contraption measured set use as opposed to actual listening time; nevertheless advertisers preferred the Nielson ratings to Hooperatings so Nielson bought out Hooperatings in 1950.
In the 1950s TV began to grow rapidly so Nielson moved its audimeter to television sets and each household set was equipped with one. The same principal was used with the TV sets in that at each chosen time period the household resident was to open up the device and mail the material recorded inside, and for each households compliance and cooperation they received a big 50 cents a week. The data taken from the audimeter was then analyzed to form two separate reports for both network programs and local television markets. Nielson was doing fairly well in the business, but it lacked one major source of information that many broadcasters and advertisers were looking for and that was demographics. In 1949 Nielson received a competitor in the TV rating business and that was the American Research Bureau, later known as Arbitron. The Arbitron solved this problem of lack of demographic information by coming up with the diary. This was a specially prepared book used for listing all of the information about who is viewing what and for how long. Because of this Nielson also came up with its own diary, and then soon after Arbitron came out with its own version of the audimeter. Soon after all this rivalry chaos Nielson dropped its radio rating service in 1963 and solely devoted its attention to television ratings. Through thick and thin it ended up that Nielson would be the prime rating service for television and Arbitron radio. Throughout the years the technology steadily increased and mechanical surveying equipment continued to improve. In the late 1980s the peoplemeter was introduced and was the best device yet to be used. An English company called AGB Television Research developed this box and it was set on top of the TV set and automatically recorded which station was being watched and for how long. But on top of that it came with a remote that the viewers used to log in and out when watching and all of this information was stored in the box where a computer at the AGB building would call and have that information transferred via telephone. Also in the computer mainframe all the demographic info about the entire household was stored so that when the data was received from the box they were able to see exactly what type of people watched what and for how long. Soon after this new device took off Nielson made its own peoplemeter and AGB was soon out of enough clients to keep operating so it shut down in 1988. As of the late 1990s the Nielson Company was on a roll with no competitors in its field and Arbitron was dominating all local radio broadcasting even though AccuRatings started in 1992 and supplied Arbitron with competition in some 50 different markets. Now in our present day in age Nielson is expected to lose business because of its highly priced reports and some inaccurate flaws in its data collecting. Because of this many advertising agencies and TV networks are funding the development of a system called SMART (Systems for Measuring And Reporting Television). This new system will be in competition with the national Nielson ratings and is very similar to the peoplemeter but is a lot easier to install and even easier to use. Also SMART states that its custom reports and analyses of data will be much cheaper than the products from Nielson. Nielson however still is on top of the market and will probably continue to dominate the ratings industry because of its constant information it brings in along with so many different styles and methods of collecting it. Currently the Nielson Company is still using the same diary method that they have been using for years along with the peoplemeter and Arbitron also uses the diary method along with the good old-fashioned telephone recall technique. With all of these different styles and formats of surveying the programs audience, it needs to be put into a form that allows all the different program networks to see how well their show or station is doing in comparison to all of its competition and that s were the ratings and shares come in.
First the rating company, which is either with television or radio, takes the data and analyses it and checks for consistency and legibility. The good data is then entered and processed into the main computers and is then calculated, this usually takes several weeks before the reports are ready to be sent out. On these rating reports it has several different types of information, some of this information includes the household using television or HUT, a share, and the rating. A HUT represents the number or percentage of households that have a TV set on during a specific time period (Broadcasting, Cable, the Internet, and beyond). A share or share of the audience is the total number of households watching a particular program at a specific time divided by the total number of households using TV (Broadcasting, Cable, the Internet, and beyond). And a rating is the percentage or proportion of all households with a TV set watching a particular program at a particular time (Broadcasting, Cable, the Internet, and beyond). When the rating company s put all of this information together they come up with two numbers that let the network company s know just how well they are doing in comparison to others. With all of this information comes money, not just for the ratings company s but also for the entertainment networks and the advertising industries. With these companies knowing just who watches or listens to what and for how long they can strategically place ads or air specific programs where they will be watched or listened to the most.
Everyday the entertainment industry grows larger and larger and there are more people looking to be entertained, and with all of this surveying and demographic information it makes it possible for the industries to come up with different programming for both television and radio that every spectrum of viewers or watchers will want to be a part of. Although it may not be cheap for the program networks or the radio industry to receive this type of audience and demographic information there will always be a need for it out there and there will also always be someone willing to pay for it.