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A note from Nielsen on COVID-19

As we closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on communities across the globe, our hearts go out to all those who have been affected. In these uncertain times, all of us at Nielsen are reminded of our responsibility to do what we can to help prevent the spread of the virus. Our number one priority is protecting the health and well-being of you, of your loved ones, and of our employees. We will return to in-person visits to homes based on local governmental and medical guidance, taking appropriate social distancing and PPE measures.

We are so very thankful for your partnership with us as you take part in the ratings. As a Nielsen Family, your contribution to the ratings is especially important in challenging times like these.

As always, your Nielsen team is here for you if you have any questions.

Nielsen TV and Radio Ratings
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At Nielsen, we measure what content people watch and listen to. We have done this for more than 50 years. Most of our knowledge and data comes directly from people like you. We rely on real people to understand how audiences watch TV, stream and listen to music and podcasts.

To measure all of this, we ask people to be part of our panels. A panel is a small group that has the same traits (like race, gender, etc.) as a larger group of people. Some of our panels are made up of Nielsen Families, also known as Nielsen Homes or Nielsen Households. Nielsen Families are people who allow us to measure what they watch on TV and listen to on the radio. We take what we learn from them and produce the ratings.

Already been contacted by Nielsen to participate?

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How Nielsen families are selected

First, a county within a state is selected. 

Next, within that selected county, a group of block areas are chosen.

Specially selected homes within that block area are then contacted to become Nielsen Families.

Nielsen Ratings

Information about who watches and listens to content, like music and TV shows, is used to get the Nielsen ratings. Ratings help people who work in TV, radio, and advertising understand how their content is performing—this can be anything from a network comedy to a podcast to a news segment during a given time. A rating is the percentage of a specific population that watched or listened to a piece of content or ad.

What are you measuring to get Nielsen Ratings?

Nielsen measures live content, on-demand, and DVR and streamed content. This includes basically anything that comes through your TV or radio, as well as much of what comes through other types of devices like your smartphone.

How do Nielsen Ratings work?

Our measurement devices pick up audio codes in content to know what is being viewed and listened to. We collect the data securely, then use a combination of science and statistics to get the ratings.

Are ratings the same as reviews?

No, they aren’t—ratings and reviews are very different. Nielsen ratings only show viewing and listening behaviors that we measure, but reviews are opinions and can come from anyone. Our ratings are also not the same as parental movie “ratings,” which review a film’s content to understand if it’s appropriate for viewers of different ages.

View our weekly Top 10   |   Learn more about our TV Ratings

Nielsen Families and Panels

Becoming a Nielsen Family is a chance to have your voice heard and represent your community. By contributing to ratings, you’re letting the media and advertising industries know what you, and people like you, prefer to watch and listen to. And you belong to an important group—there are tens of thousands of Nielsen Families across the U.S.

Listen to what a former Nielsen Family has to say about participating:

When you participate as a Nielsen Family, you’re part of a Nielsen panel.

How do Nielsen panels work? Think of a scientist studying a lake. To learn more about it, they take a small water sample because it shares the same traits as the rest of the water. There’s no need to drain the whole lake to understand what’s going on.

How do Nielsen ratings work?

Similarly, a panel is a smaller group that shares the same traits—like gender, race and age—as a larger population. We develop these panels to help us understand what’s happening in the larger population without having to survey each and every person in the larger population individually.

Can I talk about being a Nielsen Family?

No. Once you begin participating, you can’t share that you’re part of the Nielsen ratings. We ask that you do not discuss your role in Nielsen research with people outside of your household, including on social media websites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This helps keep our ratings as independent as possible.

Can I volunteer to be a Nielsen Family?

No. Homes for TV and audio ratings are scientifically selected, so you can’t volunteer to become a Nielsen Family. However, you can sign up for Nielsen digital panels.

How does Nielsen protect my privacy?

Read more about Nielsen’s Privacy Principles. Prospective Nielsen Families will also be given detailed information about how we collect and use their data before they decide to participate.

I received mail from Nielsen. Is it legitimate?

Yes. Nielsen sends mail to homes with invitations to complete short surveys on TV viewing, or even to be part of the Nielsen ratings. Mail from Nielsen may include a survey that can be completed online, filled out and returned via mail, or done over the phone. If you’ve already been contacted, learn more about Nielsen TV homes.

Who do you select?

Nielsen panels need to include many different populations and communities. It doesn’t matter if there’s one person in your household or 10, if you live in a city or a rural location—anyone could be selected.  People who work for Nielsen, their immediate family members, domestic partners, or members of their household, as well as people who work in the media (or anything related to it), cannot be members of the panels.

Do I have to pay to participate?

Being a Nielsen Family costs you nothing.

What does a Nielsen Family get for participating?

You’ll receive gifts for your continued participation.

Can I help recruit Nielsen Families?

Yes—by joining our dedicated team of Nielsen Representatives.

What are former Nielsen Families saying about their experiences?

”Being a Nielsen Family felt like it brought our own family closer together. We already loved watching TV, but this made it a lot more exciting.” -Jackie

 “I enjoyed participating because the [Nielsen] employees became like family.” -Matthew

If Nielsen does business in more than 50 countries, then what impact do you have on local communities?

Nielsen is committed to giving back in all the communities and markets where we live and operate our business. We were named the No. 1 media company in JUST Capital’s and Forbes’s annual ranking of the “JUST 100.” Learn more about our commitment to global responsibility and sustainability.

Learn more about being a Nielsen Family

 Listen to what our representatives are saying.

Panel representation

At Nielsen, diversity and inclusion are a part of our DNA. This is reflected in everything we do—from creating an inclusive workplace to selecting panels that truly embrace the most backgrounds and experiences.

Privacy principles

Your contribution is important to us, and we protect your privacy. Nielsen will never use your personally identifiable information (such as your name, address, or email address) to advertise, promote or market third-party goods or services directly to you, and we use various methods to make sure that an individual panelist cannot be identified in the reports that we create for our clients.

More about our privacy principles | More about panelist privacy

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