Happy birthday People Meter!


Nielsen is marking the 20th anniversary of its introduction of the People Meter to measure television viewing – first the National People Meter panel and, more recently, to measure local viewing in Local People Meter markets.

"It seems only yesterday that Nielsen introduced the People Meter into our national television audience measurement service, and with it the beginning of a whole new way of providing clients with cutting-edge information of continuous value.  Well, as someone in Oldsmar pointed out to me just this morning, it has been exactly 20 years.  Here we are at our 20-year anniversary.  How far we have come!  In a heart beat we have transitioned from analog to digital; from channel centric to the A/P; from measuring program sources to measuring the programs themselves; and on to commercial measurement, time-shifting, DVR, the Internet, mobile media, A2/M2 – all based on a foundation of innovation, excellence and a lot of really smart people who then, as now, make up this magnificent service of ours. I can only wonder and marvel at how much farther we have to go," said Sara Erichson, Executive Vice President, Client Services for Nielsen Media Research North America.

"It may seem hard to believe now, but for most of us involved in introducing the new measurement system, the formal launch of the service on August 31, 1987 was almost anti-climactic.  For the two years leading up to the introduction, we had been installing the sample, testing and making important decisions to modify the system, and writing an entirely new data processing and delivery system.  We were also producing reports, in parallel with our existing service, so our clients could understand the implications of our moving to the people meter.  Similar to our processes today, we also engaged our clients in dialogue about the new service and kept them abreast of progress every step of the way.  Not surprisingly, overall viewing levels were slightly lower with the people meter, which did not please our media clients, and more importantly, the network shares changed.  These differences led to some fairly intense discussions with several of our key clients, all while a competitor was launching a national service to counter our introduction of people meters. As we all know, the launch went very well, and we dealt with our client and competitive issues.  Most importantly, we succeeded then for the same reason we will continue to prosper – through the dedication and efforts of our incredible Nielsen team.  As we continue to address the opportunities and challenges now before us, I see that it remains the ability of our people to fully understand our clients’ needs and to do what is required to provide them valuable service and solutions to meet those needs.  It’s a recipe for success that we’ve made our own and we can all be proud to celebrate this milestone," said John Dimling, former Chairman and President of Nielsen Media Research about the 20-year milestone.