What is a Nielsen Rating?

Conducted by the Nielsen Media Research company, Nielsen Ratings are audience measurements determining the size and effectiveness of TV programming in Canada and the United States.

How Nielsen Ratings Work

  1. Measuring

    Nielsen measures the size of an audience watching television programs and releases its results to the industries that care.

  2. Sample Audiences

    Nielsen homes use "TV set meters" and are established as sample audiences that are used in "statistical sampling" methods (much the same as how election polls are calculated) to determine how much of a larger population is consuming which content and when.

  3. Proprietary Metering Solutions

    How Nielsen Ratings are actually measured is pretty top secret stuff. Makes sense for a company that's been dominating the rating market for 90 years to keep methodology close to the vest. What we do know is that Nielsen homes represent a cross-section of a larger population, collecting valuable data about what is being watched, who is watching, and when.

Why Nielsen Ratings Matter

  1. In Nielsen We Trust

    Nielsen Ratings' data is worth big bucks. TV broadcasters use this data to determine which programs to keep and cancel while advertisers pay broadcasters to air commercials on popular shows based on, you guessed it, Nielsen Ratings.

  2. Size Doesn't Matter

    Stats say there are 99 million Nielsen Homes with TV's in the USA, which actually is not a very large number. This means that while the number may be low, the sample must be representative of a larger population, so make your message sticky.

  3. Ratings and Trends

    Nielsen Ratings are great at spotting trends - these trends are so valuable that programs and advertising costs literally depend on them. If you're an ad agency, Nielsen Ratings are your friend in making your media buy the most effective possible.