For those of you who don’t know, my favorite television program Community is returning to the airwaves one week from today. Community is a critically acclaimed show with many passionate fans, but it has suffered from low ratings and was shelved midway through its third season. Although the rest of season three is about to air, the existence of a fourth season is still very much in doubt. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you and the many passionate fans make sure to watch the new episodes, the ratings will improve and Community will see a fourth season. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom is wrong. Unless you and the many passionate fans have Nielsen boxes, it won’t make any difference.
What the H is a Nielsen box?
The Nielsen ratings system works by choosing a number of “Nielsen families” representative of the overall television watching population. These families have a “Nielsen box” surgically implanted in their television that monitors what programs are being watched and who is watching them. The data from the monitored televisions is used to estimate the total number of people watching any given program. These numbers, or “ratings,” are then used by the television networks to determine how much the advertisements during the show are worth. In short, more monitored televisions tuned to NBC Thursday at 8:00 PM (7:00 central) equals higher ratings equals more money equals season four of Community.
So, how can I make a difference?
Do you know any Nielsen families? Perhaps it hasn’t come up in conversation, but it is likely that you do. The numbers I have found suggest that approximately 1 in every 500 television watching households has a Nielsen box. I have about 600 Facebook friends so it’s probable that I at least know someone who knows someone who has one. So, this is what you need to do: Ask around and find someone in your social circle who has a Nielsen box and arrange to watch Community at their house. You can make a party of it! Offer to bring Yahtzee and get someone else to order pizza and bake mini pies that nobody will eat. If we can get 2,000 more people to watch Community on a monitored television, the ratings will increase by one million; a sizeable bump for a show that averages four to five million estimated viewers. Don’t feel bad about cheating the system. This is the television equivalent of writing your congressman. Make your vote count by watching Community on a television set that is actually voting.