Do TV sweeps need to die?

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a call to do away with TV sweeps periods, but Brad Adgate  makes the case in Advertising Age that there are more reasons than ever before to finally put an end to the practice.

According to Adgate, the emphasis on sweeps periods leaves resources depleted throughout the rest of the year, and that certainly does happen in local TV newsrooms.

He also points out that advertisers have been calling for year-round measurement of audience for quite some time.

Add to the that a concern about the methodology Nielsen uses and Adgate’s argument seems pretty strong.

Nielsen sends out hundreds of thousands of diaries every November, February, May and July — the four quarterly sweeps periods — to measure shows’ ratings in local households.

This season Nielsen will mail out TV diaries to 185 of the country’s smaller TV markets. But diaries depend too much on viewers’ participation; have poor response rates, particularly with young demographics and ethnic groups; and suffer from the proliferation of TV sets in every household, which makes it harder to track what everyone’s watching. Last month the Media Ratings Council, an industry watchdog, withdrew its accreditation for Nielsen in “diary-only” TV markets, the first time since 1965 that the council hasn’t accredited the Nielsen TV diary.

At the same time, Nielsen People Meters are continually measuring ratings in the 25 largest TV markets. No diaries, program stunts or sweeps are needed in these markets, which account for 48% of all TV homes and more than 50% of all local broadcast TV revenue. In 2006 Nielsen actually announced plans to eliminate paper diaries, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Now, some broadcast journalists argue that sweeps do give them a chance to do more in-depth stories and to have those stories promoted, so they worry if sweeps go away, so will the opportunity to produce as much special content.

So, what do you think?  Is there any point to sweeps periods anymore?