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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Changing Times and the Viewing Habits of Soap Fans

There used to be a time when I didn’t worry so much about how I watch a television show or how ratings were counted.  That was the job of television executives and the Nielsen ratings system.  Lately though I have been watching the ratings race for daytime television like a crazed Nascar fan hoping my car will pull into the lead.  It’s a bumpy race.

Daytime TV just isn’t watched the same way that it used to be.  Actually TV in general isn’t watched the same way that it used to be.  For starters, we have a lot more control over when and how we watch programs.  If I miss a live episode I have plenty of options to still view the episode such as via online, DVR, or in some cases OnDemand.  While these options have been embraced by viewers, Nielsen appears to have no clue what to do in response.

Nielen continues to report that the majority of television is viewed live.  Meaning that the number of viewers watching online for example don’t really need to be counted because the numbers are allegedly so small.  I feel this is utter nonsense and especially in terms of daytime television in specific soap operas.

Now while I can’t really picture too many viewers finding alternative ways to view episodes of programs such as The Talk or The Chew, I feel that these new viewing options are very important to soaps.  The majority of women working has increased hugely since soaps first became televised.  This doesn’t make these programs irrelevant.  It just means that fans have had to find other ways to watch their shows.

Let’s take a look at my viewing habits.  I work from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday typically.  This of course means that I can not watch General Hospital when it originally airs.  Since I am lucky enough to still have SoapNet, I will watch my soap at 8:00 p.m. after work.  I will also watch episodes online at once they become available.  These options work great for me and I think it is safe to assume that these options are pretty typical for other viewers as well.

So what does this mean as far as Nielsen ratings are concerned and how does one make sure that his/her viewing habits are counted?  That is a good question for which many fans would love to know the answer.  It seems that the responsibility of monitoring ratings has fallen in the hands of the viewers.  Nielsen should be adapting to the new ways in which programming is viewed but it is not.  While I am not an expert, as a viewer I will attempt to answer that question.

If you can’t watch your show live, DVR it and watch it the same day that it was broadcasted.  These numbers are now counted in the ratings.  If you don’t have a DVR, watch online at the network’s website so that the network can see your viewings.  Do this instead of YouTube.

Perhaps the trickiest solution is to get more viewers to watch live.  It seems simple but it isn’t of course for reason already discussed.  For starters your live view won’t even count unless you have a Nielsen box or book.  I think the trick to overcoming this obstacle is to encourage others to become soap fans and start watching.  Their live viewings may be counted.  Talk to others about your show and let them know what you like about it.  Tell them to watch because it is a great program and they will be entertained.  Create positive buzz online via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Message Boards, etc.

It seems backwards that viewers have to be so careful of how they watch soaps.  Tracking viewership is really Nielsen’s job after all.  However until Nielsen adapts to new viewing habits though I believe it is worth the effort to make sure they are counting us.

Sources and further reading:

Why Nielsen RAtings Are Inaccurate, and Why They’ll Stay That Way

Ratings - Frequently Asked Questions About Nielsen Ratings

Dispatches From the Couch: The Big Lie