Saturday, May 26

Feeling Fallout: Nielsen Over Jericho

As more than 21,000 pounds of nuts are bound for CBS offices on two coasts, it only makes sense that Nielsen Media Research, the leading provider of television audience measurement and advertising information services worldwide, is beginning to feel the fallout.

As Jericho cast member Brad Beyer (Stanley Richmond) and Kristin from E! Online spoke Thursday afternoon, he pointed out the obvious:

"We consistently held 8 or 9 million viewers, even going up against Idol, so everyone was really surprised and shocked that we were canceled. You have to move on and let go, but you see all this fan support and you keep that tiny bit of hope in your heart."

But those numbers are Nielsen numbers. And Nielsen numbers are being put under ever-increasing scruntity by, well, everybody. Enough so that Michelle Malkin picked up Find The Boots by Boon Doggie's May 22 story that "went out on a limb" to say that the Save Jericho campaign will change the way old media interacts with the Internet. He's not the only one.

"We were all stunned when we didn't get the second-season pickup, but our fans have completely surprised us. This outpouring of support means the world to the Jericho cast and crew. Knowing that Jericho touches so many people has completely humbled us," Karim Zreik, producer of Jericho, told E! Online. "I don't know what's going to happen next. CBS and Paramount are still weighing their options. We hope to know more by next week."

The fan standpoint is obvious: CBS let us down, but we'll forgive them if they bring the show back. Nielsen let us down, because it does not count everyone. There is nothing to forgive. Ouch.

According to Nielsen, it has been working hard to abandon family diaries (like my family once had), and leverage technology that exceeds current TV audience measurements — stuff that will track everything about consumers, from what movies they like to which ones would rather go to a live ball game than tune in to a show.

The interim step has been trying to install meters on all sorts of devices, ranging from VCRs, DVDs, cable boxes, and modems. But what we may be seeing with a show like Jericho is that the Nielsen family sampling size has grown too thin as the company has made a greater effort to track specific demographics on the front end. As a result, shows like Jericho are not accurately measured and fan passion is not even a factor.

There are currently two selection methods: geographic selection (area probability sampling) in the national sample and larger markets, and randomly-generated telephone numbers (Total Telephone Frame) in smaller markets. And the reality is, especially in smaller markets, only about 2 million people are filling in dairies during "sweeps." (Oh, only about 25,000 meters exist.) So, in essence, what one family watches can influence about 22,000 viewing homes.

Nielsen Media Research says that its ability to answer more and more detailed questions about consumers will shape how the media industry functions in the 21st century.

But today, the company is only employing quantitative "democratic" measures in an increasingly interactive world that demands more qualitative considerations. As someone who understands media placement on the advertising side, it seems clear to me that Nielsen is an important tool in capturing some sort of measure. But it cannot be the only measure.

Sure, I think Nielsen would have been better off, years ago, partnering with cable companies and giving consumers the opportunity to opt in with the Nielsen ratings system, which would have increased the sampling size. But they didn't. And now it seems it is becoming more difficult for one of America's best known research companies to leapfrog to the next system while installing old media meters.

I would be remiss to suggest that CBS Entertainment use Nielsen as the scapegoat for the network's analysis of the data. But it is very clear that measurement mix is no longer just 8-9 million viewers represented by Nielsen families. The data is also about 450,000 viewers online, thousands of iTunes downloads, tons and tons of nuts, and an ad campaign that strikes at the very heart of the network's intelligence.

What does this mean?

Well, if I were Nina Tassaler, president of CBS Entertainment, I would call a press conference on Tuesday morning. Then, standing in front of a mountain of nuts and holding up the Jericho fan ads, I would put on my famous Tassler smile and say ...

"Remember how I once told The Hollywood Reporter that we're all about continuing to build our younger audience while making sure that we hold on to our core audience? Well, we still are. Jericho fans … congratulations! You just made television history and we here at CBS have listened! We look forward to bringing you a second season of Jericho."



Unknown on 5/26/07, 11:53 AM said...

From your mouth to Nina's ears. Bring back Jericho and learn the lesson that the fans are teaching the "professionals" .

Jeremy on 5/26/07, 11:57 AM said...

I love your final paragraph! That is exactly what we want to hear! Jericho is too good of a show, too fresh of an idea in the current landscape of network TV, to get cancelled and disappear.

In my mind, this is the most ill-advised network cancellation in history. Jericho is the best show to ever get axed at the end of its first season. Before I create a furor with that statement, with all due respect to Firefly fans - and I am one myself - Firefly was butchered so bad in its airing of episodes out of order that what we saw as viewers was nowhere near what Joss Whedon had intended and finally gave us in the DVD release.

So I stand by that. Jericho is the best show, as presented in the writers' original vision, to get axed after the first season.

Look at "Lost" from the current perspective. Then image what we would have (no pun intended) lost if it had been axed after one season. I feel the same way with Jericho. It's a show that's worthy of the passion that the fans have for it.

I watched episodes on the web rather frequently. I wasn't able to be home Wednesdays at 8 frequently. I didn't bother to record it because I knew I could count on CBS great webcast via Innertube to be there for me. So it's disappointing that CBS didn't really count me as a viewer when it came to determine if enough people were watching Jericho to keep it.

sarork on 5/26/07, 12:10 PM said...

Thank you! I am doing this for not just to see Jericho back. But because all of us from near and far should have a voice. We should have our opinions count.

Unknown on 5/26/07, 12:17 PM said...

Thanks for this great article - it really hits the nail on the head!

mr smartass on 5/26/07, 12:28 PM said...

Right on!!! God, how nice it would be to hear and read those words from her!

My wife and I were having almost the exact conversation the other night about Neilson. Hope you don't mind getting many many hits in the coming days!

Penny on 5/26/07, 12:32 PM said...

Wow! Thank you so very much for this piece. You have continually understood and eloquently expressed what is at the heart of this movement.

This is not just about Jericho. That was what brought us all together but we have stayed united and have grown because this is about something so much more than just one television program. Of course they come and go but that is precisely the point.

In a world where people feel they have increasingly less control, the Jericho Junkies have connected in a way that lets our voices be heard. Thankfully we have people like who can speak for us in a much better way than I ever could and reach more people to boot!

Maybe others can see how this motely crue has forged this movement and will take the lead in other movements ... not just for television programs but for whatever they believe in.

Welcome to the 21st century!

Jericho Junkie

auntvonna on 5/26/07, 12:44 PM said...

That was a very written article and it hit the nail on the head perfectly, IMO. I appreciate all the coverage you've been giving to Jericho and I certainly hope I hear those words come out of Nina's mouth next week!

Gary on 5/26/07, 12:45 PM said...

I love the last paragraph. It certainly would be a great ending!

And I am so sick of these Networks depending on so few to decide what the rest of us watch.

Raul on 5/26/07, 12:58 PM said...

Well said, Rich. Thank you!!

Perhaps it is time to reform and reconsider how to better gauge TV audiences in the age of the cable, satellite, off-the-air HD, Internet, Tivo, iTunes, etc....

I'd like to see Jericho renewed for a second season on CBS. If CBS truly sees no value or future in Jericho and prefers Kid Nation instead, I'd hope CBS would then deal Jericho to another network rather than kill it off in a "closure" episode or movie.

Clearly, the fans would like Jericho to continue. It seems there's got to be a better way going forward than the status quo or a "closure" tactic resulting in the end of a significant relationship between CBS and Jericho viewers.

Given the viewers preference, to continue the Jericho story for many years to come, it seems that the status quo or closure may both lead to a lose-lose situation for CBS and viewers alike.

Anonymous said...

You are right on target again Rich.

Nielsen is a dinosaur, and I think Jericho could be the astroid that speeds up viewer tracking evolution :)

Kat on 5/26/07, 1:09 PM said...

Thank you for showing support in the Save Jericho Campaign! This is a great article!! I especially love the last paragraph!

If there is anyone out there that would like to help in the campaign, you can find any and all information about Saving Jericho at:

Leeanne on 5/26/07, 1:54 PM said...

Here is one of many motiivational posts the leader of the whole thing said..he started this whole thing on his May 10 show during the last 6 is the address not sure if its still in the archives or not

shaunvegas said...

Dont let CBS win this battle...change the way these tv networks view their shows and the viewers FOREVER...

This is about more than Jericho..its old media vs new media and old way of metering viewers vs the new media revolution.

CBS built an immense online presense for JERICHO, encouraged people to get involved and watch the show online and now they are taking Jericho away...

CBS bemoans the demo and how the young people are not watching on TV..hello?? They are watching on TV and online on the platform YOU built and encouraged people to use..

The Nielsens have been a flawed way of looking at viewing habits of TV shows for years...Are you going to let the select few with those precious Nielsen meters decide what the REST of us are going to watch???

Again this fight is important to Jericho but more important that we the viewers be heard about how popularity of tv shows are figured out now in this new age..

If you are sick and tired of these holier than thou network executives disrespecting audiences by putting shows on and then yanking them off the air or bouncing them around the schedule with ruthless disregard for its audience...this is your fight..

If your sick and tired of being force fed this reality tv show garbage like a crack addict then this is your fight !!

If you want the networks to give us more quality original programming that is not a spin off or rip off of another series...then this is your fight.

If your a cable tv fan who wants a show to be able to come back to the networks for..then this is your fight

If television itself is ever going to evolve back into what it was meant to be...then this is your fight..

In the end even if we do not prevail in this battle, CBS will surely know we were here and we will have left a mark on CBS for years to come....

CBS and its egomaniacal executives have to be reminded that yes we the audience DO matter.

These days ahead are long and treacherous and we are dealing with a billion dollar heartless corporation..remember we are their viewing public, if we do not win this we can ultimately win by NOT watching CBS.

CBS would think they won in the short run but in the long run they will be the true losers...

Now push ahead and speak out to the media and all who will hear you...

Get up off your chairs and couches and do something...MAKE A DIFFERENCE !!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you so very much! What a fabulous article. It encompasses everything I, and others I know, have been trying to get people to understand. The numbers are wrong, the methods are wrong and, the wrong show was canceled. I watch a great deal on the internet, not because I'm dodging commercials but because it's just easier. That doesn't make me any less of a fan. If they (the networks) supply these alternate mediums; iTunes, on-line streaming and the like, then I should be able to take full advantage of them and not feel I'm penalizing my favorite shows because I do use them. I count, I count just as much as the next fan sitting faithfully in front of his/her TV set on Wednesdays at 8. I hope Nina and the folks over at CBS wake up and realize what they've done, and I hope they do it soon. Thank you again for the wonderful article.

Leeanne on 5/26/07, 2:32 PM said...

if you go down to 52:47 that is where the host calls for the nuts to ALL started there

JayEpoch on 5/26/07, 3:42 PM said...

Do people like Nina take interviews? If the nut filled press conference doesn't take this week I think it would be really interesting to hear someone like Rich interview Nina and hear what her thoughts are on the whole fan response.

Rich on 5/26/07, 3:47 PM said...

Wow! Thank you for the comments and e-mails.

There is certainly a case to be made about Nielsen as almost every single show, according to the rating system, is down, down, down. Only Fox seems willing to defend its hit American Idol, purportedly down 6 million viewers despite miraculously pulling in record phone votes week after week. The numbers don't add up.

Maybe the numbers don't add up because they are the wrong numbers. To make matters worse, most entertainment publications, all but Entertainment Weekly is seems (which notes that DVRs are in 17 percent of all households), seem all too ready to pounce on any show based on nothing more than these questionable numbers (more tomorrow... ).

This certainly seems to be the case with Jericho. While the mid-season break played a factor, I can't help but to wonder whether Nielsen's desire to track more select demographics (younger audiences included) while all but neglecting DVRs has led to some undeserving death blows to endearing shows and better television.

Maybe the time has come for more direct fan input into what pops on television. It seems the best way to save shows like Jericho. It seems the best way to save the networks money second-guessing what fans might like. Something to think about.

Leeanne, just FYI, we've credited Shaun several times, most recently in yesterday's post. Thank you, though, for giving readers some specifics. I think the campaign is largely a grass roots efforts with many ideas, and the idea to send nuts gave it some legs it needed on the front end, for sure.

As Clarke Ingram was kind enough to point out to me recently in an e-mail, there really are no "official" leaders ... just a whole lot of people who are willing to do something to save a show and change the way networks measure TV (instead of sitting down and grumbling about it).

My hat is off to these folks, the fans, because without their efforts, no idea would have made it out the front door, let alone to offices of CBS. You can thank me for the write up — heck, I really appreciate it — but the real credit belongs to you, spending 4-18 hours a day making calls and writing letters, buying ads and sending nuts.

The bottom line...

CBS should be glad to have you and extremely sorry if they should lose you. Just my two cents.

flowerlady112 on 5/26/07, 4:20 PM said...

Thank you for the great article. The neilson system is antiquated. We need a new system that takes all media into consideration. And this is not just about Jericho, it's about quality television. Yes I want to hear those words coming out of Nina's mouth: Jericho will have a second season!!!!

Unknown on 5/26/07, 6:19 PM said...

I couldn't have said it any better. Thank you for so clearly articulating the thoughts of this Jericho follower.

Here's to a season 2!!!

law0621 on 5/26/07, 7:05 PM said...

Thank you for the article on Jericho. You preety much said all the words there are to say. I would give anything to hear Nina Tassler announce that Jericho is coming back on Tuesday! If she did it would be sweet music to my ears. But until that time comes I will continue to fight to SAVE JERICHO.

Rich on 5/27/07, 12:40 PM said...

Thanks again! I hope you enjoy the follow up as well.

Hey Jay ... I never addressed your statement. Sure, I would be happy to interview Nina if she is interested.

mk on 5/27/07, 12:42 PM said...

(Sorry, couldn't stand to leave accidental grammar mistakes in a blog called "Copywrite!" :)

Anyway, great post! I agree...this can be a BIG win-win for both CBS and the "Jericho" fans, if Ms. Tassler will simply accept the great publicity we have given CBS and run with it. The message boards have discussed this at length and the consensus seems to be that the fans are willing to promote the show OURSELVES (word-of-mouth, blogs, message boards, connecting with local media, etc) if Season 2 happens.

Rich on 5/28/07, 9:00 AM said...

Thanks mk!

Oh, and we don't sweat typos in comments around here. Everybody deserves a little breathing room now and again. ;)

Ann on 5/31/07, 9:40 AM said...

I watched it ON DEMAND thru Comcast Digital Service. Sometimes I'd go 3 episodes at a time. I was hesitant at 1st to get into this show for this very reason.
Cancellation without an ending as has been done so many times before.
CBS cancelled Threshold without an ending. That is just 1 example I can think of at the moment and when I started watching Jericho that anger was still fresh in my mind. Now more bitterness will be with me in the Fall. I am going to record every Showtime show I like this summar and Original programming of interest from USA & TNT so that when the Fall comes I will at least have something to watch. I don't need prime time and the big networks anymore as long as there is cable and DVD rentals.

Rich on 5/31/07, 9:46 PM said...

Good comment Ann. You and me both.

We hardly watch anything live, and if we do, we simply record the conflict to watch on one of those many show show nights.

All my best,

Rich on 6/3/07, 7:48 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"Last year, advertisers committed $8.75 billion for network prime-time commercial spots during the "upfront" sales season. People in the industry expect that figure to be lower this year, a sign of a migration of advertising to the Internet." — Los Angeles Times

Anonymous said...

Wow Rich, you wrote the same article I was going to write. Thanks for saving me the time!

One of the points I think a lot of people (not you) miss is that in theory only measuring 25,000 families is perfectly valid. In fact, for national numbers, the sample size is more than adequate. For sample size it only starts to fall apart when you slice it by demographics and geography.

But to me, the real problem with the Nielsens is that the families are self selected. Random sampling only works when the samples are, well, err, random. In today's world, agreeing to have the device installed will tend to skew away from more technically savvy people. As people become more aware of privacy issues they tend not to allow big brother to look over their shoulder. And those people, I contend, are more likely to view via time shifted methods.

It's just like taking a telephone survey. Your results will be skewed because you're only talking to people that are willing to take a telephone survey.

I think trying to attach meters to more devices isn't going to work any better. There will still be quite a bit of self selection among the people willing to install the device.

This is a particularly thorny problem and I'm not sure the advertising supported free tv model is going to work for another decade.

Rich on 6/6/07, 10:56 AM said...


My pleasure, but write yours anyway! It's always topical and deserves more attention. The best polls can do is capture a snapshot and most of them nowadays are too thin to be bothered with.

Recently, someone tried to make the case that Gen Y doesn't like blogs because not many Gen Y people have blogs. I had to point out that just because they aren't bloggers doesn't mean blogs aren't popular with them. Saying so is like saying that just because we don't all produce TV shows means that television isn't popular or, perhaps, sticking with Nielsen: just because the ratings slip across the board does not mean people aren't watching television. It means they are watching television differently.

Besides, rule number one in marketing is to always remember is that people make mistakes (and sometimes, gasp! lie) on surveys. People might vote up all CSI shows because they aren't sure which CSI they like. Or, if they go out to dinner, they might mark up that they watched it anyway for fear of loosing it. Or, they might mark up another show for a friend or pick PBS because they feel guilty for watching something salty.

As I said, Nielsen is still useful and kudos for their attempts to keep up with the times. It's not Nielsen as much as it is how some people interpret Nielsen.

Personally, I still think Nielsen might consider partnering with cable companies. Some of those folks know how to track viewership, given that they always seem to know which on demand movies happen to be in the top 10 (unless they make that up, of course.)

All my best,


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