Demographics & Nielsen ratings
April 21, 2006 9:06 PM   Subscribe

TV filter: I'm a media studies major and I'm trying to find a reliable source for A.) Nielsen ratings & B.) Detailed Demographics for specific shows.

TV filter: I'm a media studies major and I'm trying to find a reliable source for A.) Nielsen ratings & B.) Detailed Demographics for specific shows.

For example I'm writing a paper now on whether the Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart promotes political activism or apathy and cynicism. I've found conflicting numbers on their ratings from 900K to 1.4 million & the best I could do for demographics was weak.

Are there sources out there with demo break downs like 34% of the viewers are 35 to 52 and make 60K a year??

posted by meta x zen to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
The "reliable source" is Nielsen. You pay them for access and you get the data. They create it and sell it as a product, they don't give it away. Everything else is going to be very limited in scale, coverage, details, etc.

For example, you can find some websites that report on the ratings of shows (for example, tvsquad,, various press releases, etc.) but these tend to only report overview figures for the top shows that just aired that week, and not including any kind of comprehensive breakdowns. They're all just working from the freebies that Neilsen hands out.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:27 PM on April 21, 2006

You might try contacting nielsen and explain that you are a student.
posted by Good Brain at 10:50 PM on April 21, 2006

Contact your university's library and see what online services they have subscriptions to. It may be the case that some service they subscribe to has access to the kind of data you're looking for.
posted by limeonaire at 10:58 PM on April 21, 2006

Or perhaps contact your professor or your department chair—it may be that some other student or professor in the department has found a way to get this information in the past. Failing that, perhaps a researcher in another field at the university (psychology? women's studies? political science?) has gained access to such data.
posted by limeonaire at 11:00 PM on April 21, 2006

Nielsen's press relations page notes that they're happy to work with journalists who need the data to do their jobs, and will get back to you in 1-2 business days. Writing a class paper may not be enough to qualify, but it might be worth getting a prof in your department to vouch for you.

If that fails: Do you know anyone who works at a local television station? When I was a media reporter, I could always find contacts at local stations who were willing to share Nielsen info on a "you didn't get this from me" basis. Approaching the station as a student might get you somewhere, too.
posted by mediareport at 12:57 AM on April 22, 2006

Oh, also, try checking industry trade publications like Broadcasting & Cable. Any university librarian can help you find them.
posted by mediareport at 1:01 AM on April 22, 2006

Mediareport... your response was very helpful. I have two close friends who are reporters and would be a good source to go through.

Lime - thanks but my library stinks and I can find the occasional mention in Lexus Nexus but nothing consistant.

Thanks guys...
posted by meta x zen at 1:18 AM on April 22, 2006

The challenge that you face is that Nielsen is a company that makes its money by selling the kind of information you're looking for to media companies and advertisers. They are notoriously stingy with the kind of data you're looking for.

Someone already mentioned B&C which is one of the best trade publications for this field of study. Although, since The Daily Show is a cable show, it's hard to say how comprehensive B&C's data will be. When I was a regular reader, they would do weekly rankings of cable shows, but I don't recall how deep they would drill down.

Getting any kind of demographic data will require some direct interaction with Nielsen, who may or may not be willing to help you out. There's no real way around it. They are pretty much the only player in the TV ratings game.
posted by marcusb at 1:27 PM on April 22, 2006

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