In September, Nielsen made some changes to when it surveys TV viewership. But it appears not everyone got the memo. “It is interesting to me that the TV news industry has not figured out that there are no longer just four sweeps months a year,” said David Hughes, the news director for WDBJ Roanoke, Va.
For most people, these are just four random months in a year.
During these months, TV stations have usually banned their on-air talent from taking vacations.
During these months, TV stations have usually bought outside media to promote their local news, taking advantage of added co-op money from their networks and syndicated program partners.
And it was during these months that local TV marketers promoted stories that were often trivial, scary or about sex to raise viewership.
I have written about the need for TV rating sweeps periods to undergo sweeping changes.
And starting in September of this year, Nielsen is doing that.
But it appears not everyone got the memo.
David Hughes, the news director for WDBJ, Gray’s CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Va., sent me an email asking about the changes in TV measurement.
“It is interesting to me that the TV news industry has not figured out that there are no longer just four sweeps months a year,” wrote Hughes.
“Nielsen diary measurement ended this past May for television. For the first time ever, Nielsen now measures 12 sweeps months per year in 209 markets. That means that November, February, May and July are no more important than the other eight months of the year. For example, my sales department just received data from Nielsen’s September sweep.”
According to a post on TVB, the nonprofit trade association representing America’s local broadcast television industry, Nielsen changed the dates of surveying TV viewership in September of 2018, surveying from August 23 to September 19, and then from September 27 to October 24. And it’s currently surveying from October 25 to November 21, and then again from November 29 to December 26.
Well, technically, November is still a month when Nielsen is surveying.
“However,” said Hughes, “no one did anything out of the ordinary in October. And stations across the country are still not allowing anchors and reporters to take off during the traditional sweeps months.”
And according to Hughes, CBS did not offer any co-op dollars for November.
“I am not sure why so many across the industry have not figured out that traditional sweeps months are now a thing of the past,” said Hughes.
At WDBJ, Hughes said they treat every month is like sweeps.
“We have a year-round promotion plan. We step it up even more when we have outside advertising dollars but there is now a promotion calendar for every single month. I also now let my employees off during November, February, May and July. This allows us to spread vacations out so we don’t have a bunch of vacations back-to-back or too many anchors off at the same time.”
Is this true? Are traditional sweeps months history? If so, how are stations changing their approach in news, marketing and sales? What about co-op dollars for outside media? With newscasts being measured more often, will they show much change?