Is Sweep move March Madness?


Am I the only one bothered by Nielsen’s move of the February 2009 Sweep to March 2009?

The announcement from Nielsen came as a surprise. Nielsen plans to move the February 2009 sweeps to March to avoid "potential disruptions" associated with the switch to digital.

So why be bothered by a minor move in measuring viewers?

As CBS affiliates in the Mountain time zone we must consider this for the new March sweeps period:

20% of Monday-Friday Early News will not run due to March Madness.

20% of Monday-Friday Prime Access will not run due to March Madness.

50% of Regularly Scheduled CBS Thursday Night Prime will not run due to NCAA BB.

50% of Regularly Scheduled CBS Friday Night Prime will not run due to NCAA BB.

10% of Regularly Scheduled CBS Daytime programming will not run due to NCAA BB.

A high probability that Late News will start late due to the live basketball overruns.

These disruptions aren’t new to CBS affiliates as the NCAA March Madness tournament has been our franchise for decades…but never in a rating period.

Because this March Nielsen book will be used to represent program viewing in 1st Quarter 2009, doesn’t this change give our competitor’s Early and Late News programming a ratings advantage? Is that an accurate estimate of first quarter 2009? Aren’t some CBS Primetime programs at a disadvantage as the number of sampling nights are cut in half? What affect does the higher than normal male viewership during March Madness have on other affiliates? Is that representative of the markets Q1 viewing? What is the effectiveness of a March book for any station as it’s mail dates will only be weeks before the May Sweeps period begins?

As for Nielsen’s concern regarding potential disruptions? Hasn’t the debate for the last few years been about the digital disruption? What kind of disruption does this cause for the networks if they scramble to stunt March programming?

Television stations have invested millions of dollars in technical equipment anticipating this mandated change to digital. The value of airtime that stations allocate to educate the viewing public is expensive but necessary and in our best interest. (Although there will be some, it’s hard to believe that February 2009 will catch a majority of viewers off guard.)

I’d much rather see a February Sweeps period and get a representative sample of what happens during the digital conversion. Isn’t the whole purpose of Nielsen to statistically measure a representative sample of the markets television viewing for a period of time? We’ve already crossed the digital line…now it’s time to see what happens.

It seems that the ones most disrupted by the February to March move won’t be Nielsen…but us…the client.

Talk about March Madness!

Tim Keating
General Sales Manager
Director of National Sales-Montana Group
Cordillera Communications
[email protected]