Cord-cutting wisdom from Nielsen to TV execs

"Oh, don't worry about those people who have found something better and who are dropping your service in six figure chunks each quarter. We'll just observe them and be ready to act later." -Mike Masnick


  1. “Act” = try to suppress the alternatives with quasi-legal railroading. (In case you wondered, which I know you didn’t.)

  2. We’ve been a Nielsen family for nearly 2 years.  I’m sure we’re not the only ones who do most of our watching from digital devices (in our case WDTVs and Netflix via Wii).  They also install their spyware on our computers.  I’ll be glad when our time is up, in a couple of months.  The software and Nielsen boxes are kind of a pain to keep clicking/logging-in. Also, I feel a little paranoid since I’m not sure that they’d consider all of my viewing as fair-use or legal.  They said they don’t track exactly where the files come from or which shows are being viewed from digital devices, but I’m thinking they may not have told us all.

    1. True, but it’s kind of a disincentive for them to make people even more paranoid about demonstrating unbiased viewing behavior they can observe.

      1. I was a Nielsen family in the 90s. I’m responsible for professional wrestling being on all the time.

          1. For real. WTF wrestling is doing on a Science Fiction channel is beyond me.
            Edit: And all that paranormal crap, too.

    2. I thought the first rule about being a Nielsen family is that you can’t talk about being a Nielsen family.

      Not that I know anything, but I was a contractor at the A.C. Nielsen research center when the people counting camera box was being developed and that was 20 years ago.

    3.  I did the Nielsen thing for a couple of months last year (had to stop when I moved).  I refused to let them monitor my computer.

      When I was approached by them the only reason why I had a TV was because I got it for free (TV/VCR combo!) and had not turned it on in probably five years or so.  I used the money they gave me to buy a new TV :)

  3. This is probably Nielson suppressing their own bowel-loosening fear as much as it is them whispering sweet nothings to the TV guys.

    The number of ‘cord cutters’ who are actually falling off the grid and just never watching anything is, indeed, relatively minor(and probably not wildly different from hardline TV holdouts from decades past). It’s just that ‘cord cutters’ generally aren’t actually cutting any cords, they are just moving onto the internet, which now features ‘video'(as Nielson would probably learn by talking to Realnetworks, just to avoid future shock).

    Once on the internet, Nielson’s traditional expertise in audience metrics-gathering is somewhere between ‘pitiful’ and ‘actively hilarious’ compared to that of the players who have the advantage of experience(and, often, being the sender of the video).

    Nielson doesn’t know what those crazy ‘cord cutters’ are watching; but Netflix probably knows what they watch, when they watch it(and on what devices), how often, and for how long, when and how long they paused while watching, what they abandoned watching halfway through, etc, etc, etc. Hulu probably knows similar things, for their catalog, and Google and friends probably know creepy amounts about the youtube and the rest of the internet; while Facebook and Twitter probably have all kinds of cute graphs and numbers concerning ‘audience engagement’, anticipation, discussion-of-X-show-or-ad-among-peers, etc.

    In that context, Nielson is an archaism sitting behind a wooden desk, thumbing through its rolodex and asking its secretary to fire up the typewriter and take some notes.

    The TV and Cable guys, while they certainly don’t like the piratical edge of some internet denizens, at least have the pretty fundamental advantages of owning a variety of ‘content’, some of the faster consumer-grade internet connections in oligopolistic markets throughout the US, and some seriously desirable RF spectrum. Nielson, dunno, maybe their HQ is in a nice location and worth selling off?

      1. Am I missing something? Oligarchies and Oligopolies are substantially different things…

  4. We cut the cord and put up an aerial.  Free HD!  And less channels, and the same amount of worthwhile TV shows.

    1. We did the same, and it was fine until the switch to HD.  We immediately stopped receiving Fox’s signal (so no Simpsons) until a few months ago when it suddenly returned (albeit still intermittently). There are 3 PBS stations around here; we used to pick up one of them and (occasionally) a second and now we get zero.  ABC and CBS have reliable signals but everything else seems to be at the mercy of the weather, alignment of the planets, etc.  I guess this has to fo with living near the bottom of a hill, on the other side from the transmitters, and being surrounded by trees.  And we’re about 6 miles out of DC, so it’s not like we live out in the boondocks.

      But yeah, when the signal’s good, I like having 2 hours of WKRP on Tuesday nights.

        1. Yep, although it’s mounted inside the attic (and the antenna was ostensibly designed for that).  I’d kill myself putting one on top of the roof.

  5. I’ve never had a cord to begin with. Well, except for Ethernet cabling. I finally told my ISP to fuck off with their cold calls trying to get me to sign up for TV and home phone every month or two. They still send me a mail offer every month, though. It goes in the burn box for the fireplace.

  6. Most television programming these days has little appeal to me. The wife, on the other hand, loves her HBO shows. Cutting the cord has been difficult to say the least since there aren’t any good legal ways to get HBO without a Dish/DirectTV/Comcast subscription. It frustrates me that we spend $60/month on this crap.

    1.  Sigh. I only keep cable because it comes as a package deal with phone and internet…There seems to be zero effort put into creating interesting, quality TV shows.

    2. I saw my dental hygenist last week, who knows we gave up our satellite dish three years ago, and wanted me to know that she too had ‘cut the cord’.  She went on to say how hard to was for her to give up the sports channels and some shows of some such unspeakably low quality she was too embarrassed to tell me. I guessed it was reality t.v. show, but she lowered her eyes and said, ‘no, it’s worse than that, you’ll think less of me if I tell you’, and gave a guilty laugh.

      I couldn’t resist guessing what show could be so bad she couldn’t tell me.  Every time she pulled those instruments out of my mouth, I’d interject ‘ Japanese game shows?!’  ‘Soft porn?!’  ‘Anything on the Lifetime Channel?!’  But really, I ran out of guesses pretty quickly; it had been too long since I’d actually watched television and I didn’t surf those channels when we had access.  I’d always wondered who the audience was for *those* channels.  It’s the friend (we socialize) using sharp, pointy dental tools on my teeth. Good to know.

  7. I was a Neilsen rater last year and couldn’t believe that I was filling out a printed booklet and then *mailing* it back to them. I commented in the booklet at how ridiculous that was in the 21st century. I felt like I should go to the grocery store after and spend five minutes at the cash register writing out a check.

  8. I’m about to cut the cord simply since I’m so pissed at comcast because of the deals they offer new customers while giving current customers the shaft. On their cheapest cable/internet/phone package, a new customer saves $700 the first year vs an existing customer. For a $700 savings I’m willing to drop cable for a couple of months in order to be considered a “new” customer. After 2 months without cable maybe I’ll find I don’t need it and save even more annually.

      1. That is the toughest part. I eventually have to go back to comcast for broadband no matter what. No other choice in my parts.

        For the 2 months I need to be off comcast to qualify as a new customer I’ll have to stroll down to the library and use their wifi or use my smartphone. Now that I think about it, given the number of times I’ve helped my neighbor with his computer, he may be willing to let me leach off his wifi for 2 months.

  9. I cut the cord years ago. For my EX and I, it was always Tv, or internet. Dvd rentals, friends who would by seasons of there favorite TV shows always got us by.
    Now with Netflix, I find myself watching way too much again.
    Funny when you watch cable after being without, just how many commercials they bombard you with. They should pay you to have it in your house.

  10. I can say I haven’t fully cut the cord. I do still have my AT&T U-verse for local channels which is $19. I don’t even pay for the HD because the only time I watch TV live is the News. I have an Apple TV to access my iTunes info, Hulu+, and Netflix for Streaming, and I will purchase some TV shows for “in-the-moment” watching. IE: those shows that are water cooler shows. I cut my $160 U-Verse bill down to $74 (internet and rental on set top boxes). I’m looking to move to Digital Antenna but unsure of how they will handle the weather. IE: rainy days. I haven’t seen/read much info on how they are in heavy weather.

    So far, I’m extremely happy and can deal with the ~60 sec commercial interruptions. I can also report that I do less mindless watching of TV. I used to have it on just to have it on and would become side tracked into watching a program and end up just watching and not doing anything. Now, I know that if I am going to watch something it’s something that I want to watch. I typically will turn on iTunes and have music playing from my own playlists which is so much better than the Music (non)Choice that they had.

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