Lisa Davis: Nielsen TV or no TV
Nov 23, 2013 | 1432 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When we moved three months ago, we left behind a frame for an outdoor porch swing, a handful of light bulbs and our satellite TV service.

We decided we were paying way too much money when all we were watching was college football, “Doctor Who” and “Seinfeld” reruns.

We didn’t miss the “Seinfeld” reruns. We pretty much know all the episodes by heart, so if we got nostalgic, we could just act them out in the kitchen.

College football was tougher. My husband didn’t give up watching games, just watching them at our house. He went to work on the weekends so he could use the office TV. He listened to games on the radio. Once, he briefly considered breaking into a friend’s house when he learned they would be out of town for the weekend.

We made it almost three months before we caved.

The satellite TV installer came out on Thursday.

That was also the day we became a Nielsen family.

I kid you not.

The Nielsen TV ratings company had called and recruited us several weeks earlier — back when we didn’t have any broadcast TV in the house. I explained that, but was told it didn’t matter.

Frankly, I had forgotten about it until our viewing diary arrived in the mail on Wednesday. It was a thick booklet full of charts in which we were supposed to record everything we watched for a week.

But only on TV. Watching “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on Hulu didn’t count. Neither did the 18 times I watched Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Epic Split” on YouTube.

If the TV was on, I marked a box. If the TV was off, I marked another box. If anybody watched anything for at least five minutes, I wrote down the name of the program and marked another box. There were boxes for every 15-minute segment of every day, 24 hours a day, for seven days. Plus, there were additional boxes for each member of the family.

Unfortunately, I was already four hours behind schedule when I sat down to start marking boxes. This required bringing in my 12-year-old son for interrogation.

“What did you watch after dinner?”

“The Big Bang Theory.”

“Did you watch a whole episode?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you see the beginning?”


“Half an episode?”

“More like ¾.”

“What channel was it on?”

“I don’t know.”

(Me, scrolling through an online programming guide in a process of elimination): “Was it about peanuts?”

“No, it was about Thanksgiving.”

Meanwhile, my husband and daughter had gone upstairs to watch TV. “What are you watching?” I hollered up. “A special on the Kennedy assassination,” they hollered back.

I wasn’t even done marking boxes before they came back downstairs. “We’re not done watching,” my husband said, preempting my question. “Tell the Nielsen people that it is a commercial break and I am going to brush my teeth.”

“I’m just looking for something to eat,” said my daughter.

There are no boxes for that.

I’m ready to cancel the satellite TV service again.

Contact Lisa Davis at

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