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College Nielsen Measurement's Effect on Daytime

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This post was originally published on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog on April 5, 2007.

Earlier today, I wrote about some of the initial impact of college viewers being calculated into the Nielsen ratings, and in that post, I mentioned that daytime viewership is up 5 percent taking into account the 135 or so college students now included in the Nielsen numbers, if my understanding of the sample is correct.

There has been further analysis of those numbers in a couple of articles, one at the beginning of daytime measurement from Forbes, and another written this past week from MediaWeek.

When the college viewers were first added to the sample back in January, I wrote, "Soap opera fans are discussing these ratings and wondering what it means, if anything, for measuring soaps viewing and also for how much soaps will focus on college audiences. At one time, especially before cable provided so many alternatives, soap opera viewing was significant on campus and still probably adds in viewers not currently counted."

Forbes' Rick Kissell, in the first week of Nielsen numbers, wrote that "NBC's young-skewing combo ofDays of Our Lives and Passions shot up by more than 30% this week to week among adults ages 18 to 24." He further reported that ABC's General Hospital and CBS' Guiding Light received more than 20 percent more viewers in that category, and that As the World Turns saw an increase as well, whileYoung and the Restless did not gain in the week-to-week demographics.

Cut to John Consoli's article in Monday's MediaWeek.

Consoli begins with the continued ratings decline that has been well-documented among the nine soap operas, pointing out that most advertisers do not want to give up on the genre because it is perhaps the best targeted women's programming on the air, and he says that NBC has decided to "stick with Days of Our Lives," and that Young and the Restless is the only soap to add new viewers over the past season (although I'm not sure what a season is considered for a show that is never off season).

By this point, some of the trends Forbes noted in the first week aren't seen two months out, but there's another reason for that as well, which I'll get to below. Y&R, which did not gain in that first week, is reported by Consoli to have a o0.3 ratings rise among women 18-24, a 30 percent increase in that demographic, followed by ABC's General Hospital with a .2 gain and .1 gain for both ATWT and GL, as well as B&B. The other two ABC soaps stayed the same, while the NBC shows actually declined during this time.

Of course, it's still hard to pinpoint two months out how much of this is due to the few new college viewers added into the measurement or how much is due to rises or drops in the qualities of certain programs. For instance, Passions' continued drop could also be due to viewers abandoning a sinking ship, as the show is headed toward a definite cancellation this summer.

Whatever the case, it's interesting that the trends are looking quite different after two months than they did after one week. The only continuous data point was the increase for GH, GL, and ATWT in the target demo.

But there's another explanation as well, and it's simple--Forbes is looking at adults 18-24, whileMediaWeek is looking particularly at the female demographic.

What interests me most is the rhetoric of continued commitment to the soap opera, though, as compared to the Bloomberg article I wrote about back in February 

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Linda Marshall-Smith (QueenRuler, Soapdom.com)
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