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Audience Ratings

Audience ratings have been important to the mass media from the beginning of radio broadcasting and have continued to be essential components in the business of television. There are several competing systems that gather ratings for broadcasting, but the most prominent of these is the A.C. Nielsen Company, a name that is known to television viewers who have no interest in ratings or advertising decisions at all. The Nielsen ratings have also been the center of controversy for many years because of the fact that they serve such an important purpose to the television networks in determining what programs are broadcast, and more recently they have been controversial within the networks because of a perception that they are not as accurate as the networks would like.

A.C. Nielsen succeeded C.E. Hooper as the most important ratings service in broadcasting. Hooper ratings were the staple of radio from the mid 1940s. Nielsen also started out as a radio ratings service with the use of a meter--the Nielsen Audimeter--created by Robert Elder and others beginning in 1933. The Audimeter was used commercially for the first time in 1935. A.C. Nielsen had established a successful market research business and saw the Audimeter in 1936, recognizing both its advantages and the shortcomings of the existing model. He knew that he would need a substantial number of Audimeters to monitor enough radios to produce statistically significant results. He worked out a deal with the inventors in 1936. Elder had always considered the Audimeter as a way of measuring the effectiveness of advertising, but Nielsen saw the ratings that could be produced as important in themselves. By 1946, Nielsen had coverage of 63 percent of all U.S. homes. In 1949 Nielsen achieve his goal of national projectable ratings. Hooper and Nielsen were now in direct competition, but Nielsen was the winner because he had a continuous meter service that operated around the clock...

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Audience Ratings. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:51, May 26, 2020, from