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TiVo and Nielsen

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#1 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 09 February 2004 - 06:21 PM

For decades, TV stations ranked TV shows based on "Nielsen Ratings"

They "choose" families to give a special box to for a period of time and each time a family member turned on TV, they would identify who they were.

TV channels would then "estimate" based on several thousand of these boxes, who was watching what.

I don't think this is news to anyone, but many years ago, I thought, they can't possibly still use this system. But was told, yes they do.

I always wondered, "how can they accurately conclude that on any given night 12.3 million people watched this show while only 2.3 million watched another...and so on based on a few thousand Nielsen boxes?

I asked a cable provider once if they "track" or "record" what each of their subscribers is watching. Only to be told, "no, we don't do that" I told him, I bet they do.

Then the other day with the Janet Jackson "scandal" TiVo came out the VERY next day and stated, they had to most "rewinds" and recording from that event than any other.

Well, how on earth do they know that if they are not being a "Big Brother" and electronically recording EVERYTHING you watch.
I don't have TiVo, but seriously considered getting it.

But now I don't know if I feel comfortable knowing their is this company that is not only tracking EVERYTHING I watch, but when, and how many times I record and rewind a show or part of a show.

What do you guys think?
Do you think your local cable company and/or satellite company is monitoring everything you watch?
I'd imagine so, but at least they don't know when you hit rewind.
And if they are, which I can't imagine they aren't, what's the point of the networks have "sweeps week" and all this garbage talk of Neilsen rating anymore.

Maybe I'm naive here, but I'd think it's a bit of a violation of personal privacy for TiVo to be able to monitor everything you watch and what you record and rewind.

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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 09 February 2004 - 06:37 PM

Take a look at the agreements you sign whenever you purchase a communication service. You wouldn't believe what's in the fine print. They can track what you watch on your cable box. They can track your Tivo activity (but only to a small degree by the way). They can track where you are on the latest generation of cell phones (Alec J. told me about that one--are your kids really where they say they are?!?). And thanks to all the cookies and other imbedded bits of program they can track where you go on the internet (so stop checking out all that porn!).

And guess what? Nielsen doesn't use any of this. Because of the unseemly nature of much of this and because of the uncertainties of what someone might be watching v. recording at any given time, the company has backed away from most of their set-top boxes and instead do telephone serveys and diaries to track viewership. That's right--good old fashioned trust what they tell you. And they have found that in comparing the systems that this is still the most accurate and efficient way to go about it.
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#3 Marc_Abernathy


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 06:52 PM

now with VOD (video on demand) yes cable companies can track what you watch and when you watch it. just like they know when you order that playboy double feature (even though you press order on your remote). just like on star can track your movemnts also...

sweeps will always still happen. they need to know how much they can charge advertisers and the networks need to justify a way to showcase these lame storylines in these sitcoms (and soaps).

you are right it is a violation of privacy (espcially if they sell this info to 3rd parties) but as stated above the fine print makes you prone to anything...
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#4 Erwin Landau

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Posted 09 February 2004 - 07:03 PM

Big brother is watching you!!!

And you him...

Welcome to the rest of the World.

I remember when my Dad use to tell me not to hang up imidiately after we finished a call with my Uncle in then Socialist (more like Comunist) Yugoslavia, to hear the click when the KGB would cut the line... we even found a bug in our Hotel room once...

It's just the extension of that, that everybody wants to know what everybody else is doing...

Today's assets are Information. Most of the time a Money saver, but always way more worth then Money...

Like said welcome to the rest of the world...
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#5 Marc_Abernathy


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Posted 12 February 2004 - 12:29 PM

also with the advent of cameras on mobile phones and pda's (some can also capture motion video) you can definately be watched at any moment... just browse over to textamerica.com....
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#6 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 02:12 PM

My understanding is that TiVo claims they collect the information on what their boxes are watching, but there is no way to tell what any individual is watching (it collects total numbers). Furthermore, if you bother to read the fine print, you can "opt out". FYI, I don't have TiVo; this is what a friend who has the system has told me.

I'd argue that if it is possible to opt out, it is possible to know what you are watching. But face it, all these electronic gadgets that make our lives so much easier also make it a lot less private. Mitch mentions the tracking of cell phones. A couple of months ago, the New York Times ran an article about this. It seems the government has required all new phones to be able to be tracked immediately to a specific location "for 911 purposes." Well, it seems, cell phone companies have decided to capitalize on this by offering services to track your employees or children; just log on and see where they are on a map - accurate within a few feet. Crazy. How are kids supposed to grow up if they are not allowed to make any decisions for themselves? Obviously, the phone has to be turned on for this to work.

Big Brother IS watching.
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