We sometimes get questions about the various aspects of the ratings system and recently received a couple about the upcoming November sweeps. For those who are interested, here’s the 411:
Television viewership information is gathered electronically by the Nielsen company in the 56 big television markets in the US. This is done via two kinds of meters. Set Meters simply record what channels are being watched. People Meters collect data about what is being watched as well as demographic information about who is doing the viewing.
Four times a year (the sweeps periods), seven-day diaries (or eight-day diaries in homes with DVRs) are mailed to homes in smaller markets to keep a tally of what is watched on each television set and by whom. Diaries are mailed to a new group of homes each week. At the end of the month, all of the viewing data from the individual weeks is aggregated.
The information is used, in part, to sell advertising. For this reason, the networks and local stations often save their most enticing programming for one of the sweeps periods — essentially the months of November, February, May, and July.
The 2011-12 dates fall this way:
November: October 27 — November 23, 2011
February: February 2 — February 29, 2012
May: April 26 — May 23, 2012
July: June 28 — July 25, 2012
What do you think? Do you watch television more often during the sweeps periods?