Autodidact: self-taught


Becoming a Nielsen Ratings Family

by V. L. Craven

The Nielsen ratings are, theoretically, very important to people that decide what to air on television. I say ‘theoretically’ because they’ve chosen our household (consisting of my husband, myself and our two cats and dog) and we don’t own a television.

Not THIS Nielsen

Wrong Nielsen, but my sentiments, exactly.

Though their materials are addressed to ‘TV Research Home’ rather than our names, we’re assured we’ve been chosen to represent our area.

Being that this home hasn’t had a television in years, I’m wondering how they decided on us, but we’re not representative of our area, I’m nearly positive, as we watch Netflix and YouTube on a 21″ monitor in our living room.

This is what happened:

A couple of weeks ago we received a postcard informing us we’d been chosen by Nielsen to possibly become a Nielsen ratings household and to watch our post for more information. (A friend of mine was in a Nielsen household so I knew that this would just be the first round of the selection process.)

A couple days later, this arrived:

Nielsen Envelope

‘We’ve produced the TV ratings for over 60 years!’ By polling people without TVs? That explains a lot.

If you’ll notice, the upper right hand corner say this:

Nielsen envelope close up

Apologies for the crappy quality of the photos. We don’t own a decent camera, either.

All righty. My voice says, ‘We only watch television shows that have been vetted by our friends because we don’t have time for the bajillionty hours of rubbish you make.’

I opened the envelope and caught a familiar scent that I couldn’t name, but figured it was something to do with the ink they’d used for the pamphlet. Then I spread everything out on the counter and realised the smell was ink. The ink they use to print money.

Because this is what was in the envelope:

Nielsen Envelope Contents

Count ’em, baby, FIVE American dollars.

Clockwise, starting in the upper left corner: Introductory letter, five brand new American dollars (holla, holla, y’all!), a pamphlet explaining why what we’re doing is Important, the actual survey, a return envelope and the envelope everything arrived in.

My husband:

HardCORE Baby

Still, two dollars short of being gangsta.

My friend who’d been in a Nielsen household twice said they got paid $30 each time so we were a bit offended. It’s almost as though the opinions of people without a TV are worth less than the opinions of those who actually have one. The money is also probably why they sent the postcard ahead so people didn’t just throw out the blue envelope along with the cash inside.

First, we read the pamphlet:

Nielsen Pamphlet 01

Nielsen Ratings Pamphlet 02

(Clearly, it’s not a ‘unique’ experience, if they let people do it more than once.)

Nielsen Ratings Pamphlet 03

Then we settled in to do the survey.

Nielsen Ratings 2013 Survey 01

Nielsen Ratings 2013 Survey 02

1] I can’t recall what I chose for this one, as I know a great deal of TV is crap, but we only watch really great things. So we’re personally ‘extremely satisfied’, but we also only watch one or two shows at any given time.
2] We went with American Horror Story, The Following and Face Off. AHS was off the air by the time we got the survey, but we couldn’t come up with a third show.
3] Evenings for both weekdays and weekends (meaning we watch Netflix and certain YouTube channels then).
4] Zero. Though I really enjoy the underlined ‘working’ TV sets.
5] No.

Nielsen Ratings 2013 Survey 03

This was the most interesting bit, to my mind, because they’re obviously interested in Hispanic or Latino households. I only hope they’re trying to have a representative number of Spanish-speaking houses rather than choosing to ignore those.

The survey could be either sent in through the post, over the phone or online. We went with online.

Roughly a week later we received a letter saying they really, really wanted our opinions and to please complete the survey. We’d done that already, so now I don’t know if they’re counting our important vote or not. Oh well.

For those of you who care, our typical viewing is British TV that may or may not be available in the States, films or documentaries  (or several seasons old TV shows) on Netflix, SciShow, Crash Course, the Brain Scoop, QI, etc on YouTube and, roughly twice a year, the complete series of Black Books and Spaced.

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