A.C. Nielsen Ratings Service -
A pioneer in audience measurement for more than a half century, the
A. C. Nielsen Rating Service (now called Nielsen Media Research)
tracks the television and media-viewing habits of homes across
Nielsen began tracking radio audiences in the 1930s using a small electronic
device called an Audimeter (a.k.a, "the
little black box") that was attached to the radio sets (and later
televisions) of sample households nationwide. The device measured
whether the set was turned on and which channel was tuned in to some
1200 participating homes.
The listening/viewing preference information was fed through special
phone lines to the Nielsen computer which record and tabulate the
minute-to-minute viewing habits of these sample American families
and then distributes the information to the wire services,
advertisers, and other parties interested in the television
industry. Currently, each point on this survey represents 109,600,000 households.
A.C. Nielsen first began compiling national TV ratings in 1950
using paper diaries. In 1980, Nielsen expanded its measurement to include Home Video
Index which monitored cable and home videos for some 17.2 million
Nielsen People Meter
As of September 1, 1987, the traditional Audimeter was
replaced by a more complex unit called a "People Meter" which
determined additional viewing factors such as sex and age. As of
1996, the People Meter monitored 5000 households nationwide. To
operate the People Meter, a button must be punched before viewing -
with separate buttons for parents, children and even visitors.
In 2005, Nielsen introduced the Active/Passive Meters (AP) which
captures the audience information in digital, analog and combined
The A.C. Nielsen Service was founded in 1923 by Arthur C.
Nielsen, Sr. (died in 1980). It is located at 1290 Avenue of the
Americas in New York, NY 10104. See also - "Arbitron
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