Several major programmers -- including Turner Broadcasting System Inc., NBC Universal, Discovery Networks U.S. and ESPN -- have asked Nielsen Media Research to change how it defines cable networks for ranking purposes, marking part of the continuing fallout over Nick at Nite being rated as a stand-alone network.
Research executives representing several-dozen cable channels want Nielsen to “create a new protocol for ranking basic-cable networks that conveys to the general user the appropriate competitive standing.”
Their June 16 letter stemmed from the stir created when MTV Networks asked Nielsen to start breaking out separate ratings for Nickelodeon’s evening adult block, Nick at Nite, and Nickelodeon, with its daytime kids’ programming.
As a result, Nick in some cases has ranked No. 1 in primetime, ahead of such full-time services as Turner Network Television and USA Network.
Nielsen’s criteria for defining a cable network state that in order to qualify for syndicated measurement, a cable network must air contiguous periods of programming “amounting collectively to at least 15 hours of programming each week.” Nielsen lets cable networks choose to define their own “total-day” measurement period.
Nick and Nick at Nite meet those requirements.
That’s not enough for a group that also includes ABC Cable Networks Group, A&E Television Networks, Court TV, Hallmark Channel, Lifetime Television, Scripps Networks and The Weather Channel.
“It is our view that a ‘ranking’ infers that networks contained in a ranking report compete with each other. In current ranking reports released to the press, Nick at Nite and Nickelodeon are both shown, even though they do not air at the same time and do not compete,” the letter from the complaining networks said.
The programmers offered a solution: Networks should be required to program “more than 50% of a daypart” in order to be ranked in that daypart by Nielsen. “Networks that program less than that should be reported separately,” they added.
MTVN and Nick oppose any change in Nielsen’s current framework for what constitutes a cable network.
“For us, this is all about giving Nick at Nite the credit it deserves with audiences,” a Nick spokesman said.
In the second quarter, Nick at Nite is going to be No. 1 in total day among women 18-49 and adults 18-34, “and we’re incredibly proud of that,” the spokesman added.
A Nielsen spokesman acknowledged getting the letter and said the networks that sent it and other clients will be contacted “to work together on this.”
He added, “Ultimately, we just have to come up with a solution that best suits everyone.”