Nielsen has been using Portable People Meters to track out-of-home viewership in the top 25 markets with an eye to rolling out data shortly. It says it’s seeing increases in both 18-49 and 25-54 demos.
Everybody knows that people watch a lot of TV in bars, hotels and other people’s homes.
But stations never got much credit for it (or revenue from it) because it wasn’t being properly measured.
That may soon change.
Nielsen has been tracking out-of-home viewership with its Portable People Meters and, according to the measurement service, preliminary or “impact data” shows that it will boost the 18-49 demo ratings of stations in the top 25 markets by 14% and those of cable networks by 8%.
In the 25-54 age group, the lift was not as strong: an average 6% in station and cable viewership, with broadcast slightly higher than cable, according to Nielsen.
“I consider 14% to be a significant increase,” says Justin Lewis, director of research for Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“Every 10th of a point can mean a big difference in terms of revenue potential and competitive positioning. We always knew that a portion of our audience was being missed by a lack of out-of-home measurement, so it’s good to be able to see that lift reflected in the Impact data.”
The impact data was collected last October and November and has been filtering down through the TV research community.
Local TV ratings in the top 25 markets now come from Local People Meters, which are attached to TVs and designed to record not only what’s being watched, but also who is doing the watching.
People wear the Portable People Meters, which recognize any TV audio or radio wherever they go and record their exposure to it.
“I am very pleased that Nielsen, for the first time, will be including out-of-home viewing taking place at work, in hospitals, hotels, sports bars, etc.” says Billy McDowell, VP of media analytics at Raycom Media.
He says that Nielsen plans to widen the release of Impact data beyond the top 25 to include markets 26-44.
Brett Jenkins, EVP of technology of Nexstar Media Group, says that the new data may shift perceptions about how attractive traditional TV is to younger viewers.
“You have younger people watching, but they may not be watching the way you thought they were watching. Maybe they’re watching on other devices.”
Station executives who have seen some of the data say the results can be much more dramatic for certain genres, such as sports.
“It’s not consistent for all events, but generally speaking with NFL football, college football and post-season baseball, there were some pretty significant increases in ratings,” Sinclair’s Lewis says.
Lewis reports that in Baltimore, for example, NFL games were generally up by double-digit percentages.
“ABC’s college football game 1 on Saturday was up 46% [in the 25-54 demo]. NFL Thursday Night Football on NBC was up 10%. Notre Dame on NBC was up 70%. In October, an NFL game of the week on Fox almost doubled. And Fox’s College Football Prime game in Baltimore was 22% higher.
“It was kind of expected, because the thought all along was that a lot of sports viewing takes place in other people’s homes or in sports bars,” he says.
“This data doesn’t allow us to break out out-of-home, but it shows that when you combine the two samples together, there are differences.”
Kelly Abcarian, SVP of product leadership at Nielsen, says the PPMs have overall more than doubled the size of the Nielsen sample. But, of course, some markets are above average, she notes. In New York, the total sample grew from 3,600 to 9,000.
The larger samples bring more “stability and consistency,” she says. It reduced zero-rated quarter hours by as much as 50% across the top 25 LPM markets across all dayparts and genres, she said.
Nexstar’s Jenkins sees wider implications: “The Impact data does appear to indicate what we’ve suspected: viewing of traditional linear television is a lot better than what Nielsen had been reporting. That’s somewhat intuitive, because in increasing the sample size you’re getting more accurate data.”
The introduction of the PPMs is not only boosting ratings, it is also upsetting some news ratings races.
A large number of top 25 markets showed ranking shifts for early evening and late news among 25-54 viewers, according to an analysis by the Katz Media Group.
The analysis shows that in October, there were 20 out of 25 markets, or 80%, that showed rank changes for early news. Of the 20, six (36%) saw a No. 1 station lose that title.
In November, the changes were less substantial: nine of the 25 markets saw rank changes in early news (36%), and only one of the nine (11%) saw a previously No. 1 station drop in the rankings.
Stacey Schulman, EVP of research, strategy and analytics at Katz Media Group, cautions against making too much of these shifts.
“Just about every market that experienced a No. 1 rank loss had a really tight race in these news dayparts. Historically, the No. 1 and No. 2 stations have been periodically in and out of that No. 1 position. This suggests to me that it’s difficult to attribute any rank change of No. 1/No.2 to the integration of PPM alone.”
Nielsen says that in the highly competitive morning news, 14% of all top 25 stations — 17 out of 124 — experienced rank changes, excluding instances where a tie was broken.
“It is also important to call out that average change in ratings that cause rank changes is a tenth of a point,” the spokesperson says. “Ratings remain very close in many instances. This speaks to the power of local news.”
Nielsen expects to release January impact data this month, and to begin routinely generating the new PPM-enhanced ratings in September.