John Altenbern, president of CJ&N, weighs in on what TV stations should be thinking about now that Nielsen is surveying almost year round. “Everyone now at least is on the same playing field, and that will help move this along so that there’s a common language that everyone will speak, what are ratings and what do they mean and perhaps how to sell them.”
The Market Share column from Monday, Nov. 5, asking if local TV sweeps months as we knew them are history, caught the attention of John Altenbern, president of CJ&N, a media market research company serving news and information content providers.
“Good column this morning on year-round sweeps. It’s something we’ve been talking about with our clients recently,” said Altenbern.
I don’t know John, but he offered to share his blog, When Sweeps Never End, on the subject.
He asks some insightful questions in his blog. Here are just a few:
What’s the point of traditional “sweeps months” four times a year when electronic ratings measurement is constant?
Don’t you still want to influence them to watch your newscast to drive higher numbers at certain times?
In which months of the year does your ratings performance matter most?
Which quarters are most important to sales, and for which kinds of advertisers?
If auto dealerships are trying to drive new model year sales, what are the ratings they will rely on?
I thought Altenbern’s questions were so intriguing, I picked up the phone and called him.
I asked him what he’s telling his clients about the changes in how Nielsen is surveying.
He said the business is in transition right now, but “we’ll get to the place where people are making sales based on numbers that are a lot more current, because everybody‘s going to have them. Everyone now at least is on the same playing field, and that will help move this along so that there’s a common language that everyone will speak, what are ratings and what do they mean and perhaps how to sell them.”
He said the buying community will need to change their habits.
“Some are buying off a rolling 90-day average, some are looking at the traditional months, and saying here’s what it was last year and here’s what the projection is and I’ll buy off of that.”
Altenbern sees year-round ratings as an opportunity to increase viewership rather than as a report card of what TV stations did.
“No matter what service you subscribe to, you have to be much more opportunistic day to day about when you have an audience and what you can do to drive a number is the thinking.”
In other words, if you see in the ratings that your network programming leading into your late news is consistently getting good ratings, use that as an opportunity to develop a strategy to hold and drive that audience into your late news.
But here’s advice Altenbern left with me about never-ending sweeps and what your station should do in terms of sales, news and marketing: It depends.
“What’s right for your station might not be right for the others.”
NOTE: Here’s a spoof spot that was shown at a Promax/BDA Station Summit in June. It spoofs TV news promotion in general with a nod toward the over-the-top promos some stations might produce during sweeps.