Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When TV Was Young and Being Nielsen Was Cool

A lot can happen in a lifetime and only a couple generations separate you from your television and it’s invention. Growing up, we did not have color television for several years and the bulky consoles we did have, required the TV repairman to come out and replace tubes in the back when it stopped working. I suppose it is the equivalent of a PC that does not want to play nice. Often times the only thing on TV was the repairman’s butt.

Hardware stores had these large electronic tube checkers that allowed the Do-It-YerOwnSelf-Dads to test the tubes from the TV. You plugged the tube in and it was either Yay, more TV or Nay, this thing is junk. Color television was expensive and if you have watched any of the Happy Days episodes, you will remember that the whole family gathered around the television to see a show in color. In addition, television only had three channels at best and they were black and white programs.


For other really cool walks through the past, visit this page at metalfloss.com http://mentalfloss.com/article/30414/11-modern-antiques-todays-kids-have-probably-never-seen

The late 1930s gave us The Wizard of Oz, which was filmed in black and white until the addition of Technicolor, that made Dorothy’s ruby red slippers sparkle with color and shine. The book slippers were white, if anyone cares.

With the invention of television came the need to know what programs people were watching. Advertisers were nosy and they devised this crazy rating system based on real people in real households who watched television. The Nielsen Family was the family that decided what you or I got to see. Nielsen Ratings were sought after from both advertisers and production companies. The Nielsen Rating determined what stayed on the air and what got booted.

Check out the Top Ten Trends by clicking the link to Nielsen.

It was not terribly scientific and it was subjective to the moods of the families selected for the experiment. A Nielsen Family keeps a diary of their television viewing for a week, and then turns it back into the company for evaluation. The family’s diary is then used to determine advertising rates for the most popular time slots. Television programs such as I Love Lucy and The Big Bang Theory will garner more money from advertisers than Pinks All Out and Swamp Pawn, although those second examples will certainly have their niche advertisers.


Seriously, I kid you not, there is a show and it is on CMT – Just remember, you cannot un-see things once you have seen them.

The point of the Nielsen Ratings is to get a cross-section of American viewers to find out what they watch and when they watch it. They also consider anything that has been purchased On Demand or set to record for viewing later.

We are not big television watchers for the most part, and when we do watch TV, it usually consists of something nature related or travel related. When I am alone at home during the day, if I am not working on writing articles, I will listen to something documentary driven that I can listen to with no need to watch.

Imagine my surprise when I got a package in the mail telling me that we were selected to become a Nielsen Family. I always wanted to be one. Of course, that was when I was actually watching television and trying to figure out how some of the most ignorant sitcoms were on television for a long run. I won’t mention the ones that come to mind, lest I offend someone, but the 70s was wrought with ignorant television.

The 2010s are not doing so well either; there are just more channels to shove ignorant television onto.

The week that they asked me to keep a diary happened to be a television-less week. I had 40 articles to write, so there was no TV during the day, and the evening line-up included a new Big Bang Theory and some evening activities that took us out of the home. So, in the eyes of the Nielsen Family, we only watched one show and we were out of town during the weekend. I guess the rest of the week they thought we played tiddly-winks!

I do not know how viewer diaries such as ours can help anyone determine what is the best television to produce and view, since we were busy and what we did watch was already highly rated. I gave our PBS channel a plug since I saw a Montana Backroads production and we did watch our local news. But, the rest, nah, we did not participate in regular television, so my big chance to make a change in television was rather wasted, I suppose. The only good side was, they sent me a brand new dollar bill, which I used towards a cup of Starbucks and I got to fill in my thoughts on television in general.

I ranted for four lines about the ignorance of some of the programming and my general disgust with television as an entertainment venue. I do not think I will be asked to watch any more television in the near future. :)

So, here’s to being Nielsen!

Julie and Blu