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Q&A: How the Nielsens work

How the Nielsens work

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Could you please tell me how the Nielsen surveys determine the number of people watching a TV program?

Nielsen Media Research, which has an operations center in Oldsmar, provides research into Americans' TV viewing habits. Here's how, according to its Web site:

Nielsen selects 25,000 families from across the United States that reflect the nation's diversity. They do so both geographically and through random telephone sampling. They do not accept volunteers.

If selected, families agree to have metering equipment installed on all TVs. Daily minute-by-minute viewing data is sent to the company's computers every night about 3 a.m., processed and then released to the TV industry daily. In smaller markets, such as Tallahassee, handwritten paper diaries are kept and included in the analysis.

Both set meters and people meters are used so the company can collect information on what channels are watched and the demographics of the people watching.

The famous weekly TV ratings are updated every Wednesday from data received the previous Monday through Sunday. An exception is syndication, which take an extra week to analyze.

If you want to see the top 10 TV shows every week for broadcast TV, cable TV, syndication or among African-American or Hispanic households, go to Click on "Inside TV Ratings," then "Ratings and Data," then "Top TV Ratings."

For the week of Jan. 19, American Idol of Jan. 21 was No. 1 for broadcast TV, the Obama inauguration oath on CNN on Jan. 20 was the top cable show, Wheel of Fortune topped the syndicated shows chart, the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball on ABC on Jan. 20 was tops among African-Americans, and Fuego en la Sangre on Univision on Jan. 22 was the most-watched by Hispanic viewers.

Decaf isn't caffeine-free

Is there caffeine in decaffeinated coffee?

Almost all decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine. Studies have detected 5 to 8 milligrams of caffeine in most decaf cups. Regular coffee typically has about 100 milligrams per cup. The findings show that one or two cups of decaf will contain some caffeine, but probably not enough to cause a health concern. No standards exist for acceptable caffeine levels in brewed decaf.

Alaskans got $3,269 from oil

Every Alaska resident is entitled to an annual oil royalty check. How much did each resident get in 2007 and in 2008?

The 2008 take was $3,269 per eligible resident — up from $1,654 in 2007. People must live in Alaska one calendar year to qualify for the payout. Including 2008 dividends, the fund has yielded $16.5 billion since the first payout of $1,000 in 1982.

Q&A: How the Nielsens work 02/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 1:07pm]
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