Others question Nielsen's DTV tally; We asked Ivie


A reader agreed with the NAB regarding our recent story that NAB CEO David Rehr fired off a letter questioning Nielsen’s take on DTV readiness numbers (3/13/09 TVBR #50). Here is the feedback we received:

“Where are they getting the data? It’s only in 56 markets. It’s not in all of the markets. So for the government/NTIA to say that they’re over- or underestimating the number of markets that are unready is ridiculous because they don’t have meters in any of the other markets. They’re only in the metered markets [21 are LPM markets]. I would be willing to bet you that it is worse than they’re saying. Those 56 are typically the bigger markets. The smaller markets are more inclined to be less tech-savvy. The top 56 represents a good deal of the country to be sure but it still doesn’t speak to the smaller markets.  This subject was brought up at Nielsen alliance meetings over a year ago when they began reporting the “unready” sets/markets.”

Media Rating Council CEO George Ivie tells TVBR: “I’ve looked back at the correspondence trail on this matter and I’m unclear where either party (Nielsen or NAB) are getting their data.  Nielsen has data in its metered markets on readiness that we believe is quite good, and it’s based on direct observation by Nielsen field personnel.  I believe they also have been using a modeling or estimation approach for the unmetered DMAs, but I’m not sure what data is being quoted (solely metered market data, or the combination).  The NAB has been doing research on their own and also has been in dialogue with Nielsen, I believe.

Unless I know what data is being referenced, it’s hard to comment.  MRC has been working closely with Nielsen on this matter through a special sub-committee of our TV Committee that’s been set up for over a year.  We’ve had several meetings and information exchange.  I believe Nielsen has been diligent.

Another source of data that Nielsen could quote would be from their National panel, but that wouldn’t be very good for estimates at the market level.”

Nielsen spokesperson Anne Elliot tells TVBR the monthly updates are based on 37,000+ households with meters.  That includes both the National People Meter sample and 56 local markets–21 with People Meters and 35 with set meters. 

We have been very clear about what our readiness updates include: We are reporting on whether people can actually receive a digital signal, not whether they are preparing to receive a digital signal. These estimates are based on actual visits to the homes of the people in our sample. As we’ve reported, there has been a steady decline in unready households in the ten months that we have been reporting this data.

Throughout this process we have been working with federal legislators, regulators, clients, community organizations and trade associations to brief them on the trends we have observed. We have met several times with the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), which is overseeing the digital transition coupon program, to give them in-depth analysis of our data and we are confident that our reports are the best available measure of the progress that American households are making in preparation for the digital transition.”