NEW YORK — The A.C. Nielsen Co., a leader in television ratings, plans to go forward this fall with a new method for measuring national television audiences.
(ABC, meantime, said it will look elsewhere for audience ratings, but said its decision was not related to the Nielsen change. See accompanying story.)
Nielsen plans to abandon the diary ratings method systems under which it has for 30 years asked television viewers to list in a log what shows they have watched.
In its place, Nielsen said it would use "people meters," devices which resemble remote control switches and can record electronically which family members are watching particular shows.
Nielsen has been testing the people-meter system for three years.
"The diary worked well in simpler times with fewer viewing choices, but in today's complex video world of broadcast network programming, independent stations, cable and VCR, the typical diary keeper finds it hard to record all the viewing activity of household members accurately," said William S. Hamill, executive vice president of Nielsen Media Research, the Nielsen arm that studied the new system.
Initial results of tests of the people meter have showed that fewer people may be watching some programs than the diaries had indicated.
The networks base their ad rates on audience sizes, and have urged the ratings services to be cautious in moving to a new measurement system.
National advertisers and the agencies they hire to place some $8 billion in advertising each year have indicated they expect lower rates if it is determined fewer people are watching shows.
Nielsen is a division of the Dun & Bradstreet Corp., a leading marketer of business information.