Television ratings as we know them are synonymous with one company—Nielsen, which created the famous “Nielsen ratings” that measure television show’s viewership. For broadcasters—and advertisers, who fund them—this is crucial data, determining the desirability, and thus price, of commercial airtime.
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Nielsen’s most famous methodology is the “diary,” in which members of selected households record their viewing habits. Frankly, it’s not the most reliable-sounding method, for a variety of reasons; you might forget to keep track of the shows you’re watching, you might make mistakes, you might even deliberately keep false data if you’d rather have the ratings guys think you’re watching PBS NewsHour than Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
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According to Van Der Sar, TV piracy is not necessarily an industry-crippler the way p2p mp3 sharing was for the music industry, but possibly an opportunity in disguise. “I don’t think TV networks should be afraid of BitTorrent or piracy in general,” he says. “But they shouldn’t ignore it either. Piracy is a market signal, an opportunity. If interpreted correctly, TV-networks may hugely benefit from piracy by selling their shows to regions where the demand is highest. On the other hand, if they want piracy to decrease they only have to make their content available in user-friendly format. Hulu already decreased TV piracy in the US significantly, but there’s still a lot of work to do, especially outside the US.”