Nielsen tweaks digital panels

TV buyers baffled by Lonestar's long-standing position at the top the diginet rankings may soon see the western channel's reign come to an end, thanks to a move by Nielsen to change the system used for measuring digital and satellite TV viewing figures.

TV buyers baffled by Lonestar’s long-standing position at the top the diginet rankings may soon see the western channel’s reign come to an end, thanks to a move by Nielsen to change the system used for measuring digital and satellite TV viewing figures.

In a bid to obtain more accurate rankings, Nielsen altered the categories within its surveyed panels on Sept. 1 to separate out satellite households from those with digital cable. (Previously satellite and digital households were lumped into one category.)

Nielsen’s research shows that satellite digital homes now account for one-third of viewing homes in Canada (rising from 28% to 34% in the last year) and the change to the sample was made to reflect the growing significance of the sector within the television landscape.

‘People who have satellite systems use TV differently to people with digital cable, so we wanted to change our weighting variables to separate out these two categories,’ explains Lisa Eaton, VP of client services at Markham, Ont.-based Nielsen Media Research.

Eaton says that various factors differentiate the two groups, such as the ability to time-shift with satellite, so it makes sense to measure the viewing habits of the two groups separately within the usual sample of 3,350 metered households across Canada.

The move is long overdue according to Dennis Dinga, VP, director of broadcast buying at Toronto’s M2 Universal. Dinga believes that more accurate rankings will be the result. ‘It doesn’t seem right that Lonestar has been at the top for so long,’ he says. ‘It never should have been there in the first place.’

Dinga also predicts a rise in the overall diginet figures. ‘People who have satellite tend to be higher viewers of specialty and diginets than the norm, so diginet figures will jump up,’ he says.

Doug Davis, head of research at Toronto’s Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting, is also a supporter of the change by Nielsen. ‘The TV world is changing dramatically right now and it is important for Nielsen to have its sample represent as closely as possible the TV world as a whole,’ he says.

For his part, Davis believes that the diginets will be rated more fairly as a result of the change in weighting. ‘It will give our channels the opportunity to be measured as accurately as possible,’ he says.

Nielsen measures the performance of the diginets in 13-week increments so any alterations to the diginet rankings will be available in December, although Eaton warns against assuming that any potential audience growth is a direct result of the change to the system.

‘There are a number of other variables to consider,’ she warns, ‘such as more competitive programming and new additions to the diginets.’