Broadcasters pressing to move May Sweep


The 2009 May Sweep includes, for the first time in decades, the Memorial Day Weekend. COLTAM (NAB’s Committee on Local Television Audience Measurement) has called for Nielsen to move it back a week and the NAB Television Board has now given its endorsement to the idea.

“We just want it to be as clean a sweep as possible,” COLTAM Chair Billy McDowell, VP of Research for Raycom, told TVBR. He notes that with the February sweep already rescheduled to March, the May Sweep will be the first regular ratings sweep after the digital transition.

“We know that Memorial Day weekend has a lot of changes in people’s habits that are atypical. When you start trending against past Mays, it would definitely be a problem,” McDowell said. He noted three problems with having the May 2009 Sweep as currently scheduled by Nielsen:

1. Response rates for diary measurement are always an important issue and holidays make data collection even more problematic.

2. There will be a great deal of focus on the May measurement since we will have the February DTV switch and the March ratings period which will be very atypical for the industry.

3. Trending across books with and without holidays can distort actual viewing patterns.

As it stands now, the 2009 May Sweep is scheduled for April 30 to May 27 (Memorial Day is May 25). COLRAM and the NAB TV Board are recommending that the dates be changed to April 23 to May 20.

McDowell said it is a given that response rates will be down and Persons Using Television (PUT) rates will be down for the holiday weekend. So, broadcasters are agreed, without any dissent that he is aware of, that Nielsen should avoid having Memorial Day Weekend counted in the May Sweep. The argument against the move is that, in LPM markets, Nielsen would have to shorten the April report to three weeks to move into the May Sweep a week early. But McDowell said the broadcasters he’s spoken to with stations in LPM markets do not have a problem with that.

RBR/TVBR contacted Nielsen on Friday to find out whether the ratings company is considering a rescheduling of the May Sweep. However, we have not yet gotten an official response on the company’s current position.