Measurement returns to Big Easy, post-Katrina


Nielsen Media Research TV ratings returned to New Orleans last Thursday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, however, agencies will have to wait another two weeks before also seeing audience estimates. According to a local Times-Picayune story, people who've seen the results from the last month of unreleased testing of Nielsen's new electronic overnight ratings sample say that the numbers reveal no major shifts in the order of news viewing patterns, for example, since the storm. Before Katrina, CBS WWL dominated news ratings, while WDSU (NBC) and WVUE (Fox) battled for distant second and WGNO (ABC) fourth. The average order of finish in that competition appears unchanged.

However, the numbers evidently show a significant decrease in overall local TV-news viewing compared with late spring 2005. Based on the metro area's post-Katrina population, Nielsen reduced New Orleans' market ranking from No. 43 to No. 54, so a decrease in audience totals is not unexpected. Nielsen also had to recruit a whole new survey sample audience from scratch: about 400 households for electronic overnight measurements of household viewing and more than 1,200 homes for its month-long survey system, via diaries.

As well, before the storm, only homes with land phone lines were recruited for the sample. Now, the sample has been expanded to include cell-phone-only households.

The ratings return had been scheduled for May but was delayed by stations' dissatisfaction with the quality of the new sample. Those concerns continue, according to the story, causing local stations to approach the return of the ratings with a wary eye.

By pushing the ratings return to July from May, Nielsen denied local stations the late-news lead-in boosts provided by the season finales of "American Idol," "Lost," "Heroes," "CSI" and other hit series.