- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

Ratings revolution?

Nielsen Media Research is joining the TiVo revolution.

The ratings-measuring firm will begin tracking shows recorded by DVR (digital video recorder) devices such as TiVo next week when tallying its figures, Associated Press reports.

The move is a reflection of how the traditional notion of watching television is changing — and if Nielsen’s numbers show that new technology also is changing what people are watching, it has the potential to profoundly disrupt a multibillion-dollar business.

An estimated 7 percent of the nation’s 110 million homes with televisions have DVRs, and that figure is expected to rise to one-quarter of the TV-watching population by sometime in 2007, Nielsen said.

Until now, Nielsen has bypassed DVR homes when it has signed up the estimated 9,000 families that make up its national sample of homes. These so-called Nielsen families provide the basis for its ratings, which make a show a hit or flop.

DVR homes will be included starting Monday, says company spokeswoman Karen Gyimesi.

It has taken this long partly because the Nielsen “people meters” that record what families are watching weren’t equipped to handle DVRs until now, Ms. Gyimesi told AP.

“The most significant impact that it will have is that it will show the top-rated television shows will have a higher audience with a significant amount of playback,” David Poltrack, the top researcher for CBS and UPN, told AP.

Testing over the past year has revealed what seems to be common sense: Nielsen says popular shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Desperate Housewives” are the most likely to be taped and watched later.

However, because people with DVRs tend to watch more television than people without them, the data also may help smaller, cult favorites. Tests revealed that the WB’s “Smallville,” for example, was watched at double the rate in DVR homes than in homes without the device.

The immediate effect will likely be minor because only about 100 DVR homes will be included in the first week’s survey. However, Nielsen plans gradually to add families, and Ms. Gyimesi says that by summer it expects to have DVR homes in its survey that mirror the percentage of such homes in the nation as a whole.

The Carver revealed

“Nip/Tuck” fans will learn — finally — the identity of the villainous “Carver” in tonight’s episode.

The sudsy medical drama, airing its two-hour finale at 9 p.m. on FX, has been haunted by the Carver for parts of the past two seasons. The Carver slashes out at the plastic surgery field, and some of its practitioners, with his — or her, as the case may be — blade.

“Nip/Tuck” follows the tawdry world of two polar-opposite surgeons (Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon) running a popular plastic surgery office. The series upped its usual ante this year with subplots involving white supremacists and a near-wedding for the lecherous Christian (Mr. McMahon).

G4’s new ‘Trek’

The Comcast-owned G4 network wants to beam up episodes from two popular “Star Trek” series.

Both the original “Star Trek” and the popular spinoff “Star Trek: The Next Generation” are close to joining the cable channel’s lineup, Reuters news agency reports.

Sources suggest the move is part of a Comcast effort next year to reposition the channel brand of G4, which struggled to establish itself as the TV home for video gamers, in a broader play for young male viewers.

A name change also is being considered.

“Trek” is the latest acquisition G4 has made for a program that isn’t overtly about video games. The short-lived Fox series “Fastlane” and Comedy Central franchise “The Man Show” are other recent purchases. The network also has had success with the anime genre, a leftover from G4’s merger with a Comcast acquisition, TechTV.

In terms of G4’s channel positioning, Comcast has to walk a fine line lest it violate affiliate agreements for G4 with other cable operators that specify the channel focus on video games. However, video games likely still will be part of the mix at G4, given how popular they are with the young males the channel targets.

The “Trek” name isn’t alien to the gamer world; the brand has generated more than 70 video-game titles.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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