Top TV markets vs. metro populationsSo the Nielsen Media Research recently announced that Houston has displaced Detroit as the tenth largest TV market in the country. Kuffner comments here, and you can find the complete list here (press release).
I found it interesting that, while we're the 8th largest metro, we only make #10 in the TV markets (and no, I don't think it's because we watch less TV than the rest of the country, although that might be nice). In the TV listings, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Boston move ahead of us while Miami-FtL drops from #6 to #17 (because Nielsen peels off West Palm Beach separately). Part of the discrepancy is just different metro definitions between Nielson and the Census Bureau (like including San Jose with SF or not), but I think demographics figure into it too. Nielsen is looking at "TV households", while the Census is looking at people. Houston has a large Latino population, which tend to have larger households. This gives us a high population count, but a lower household count. This could also be a factor in Miami's big ranking drop.
Another interesting difference is that Nielson will look at the far hinterlands around a metro as long as they watch those local TV stations. As an example, Tampa is only the 20th largest metro by Census definitions, but the 12th largest TV market, and the largest in Florida. I'm sure this is because there is a fairly dense strip of households along the entire west coast of Florida, and they probably watch the Tampa TV stations even if they're way beyond the Census-defined metro area.
As another example, look at Philadelphia, whose metro only has 15% more people than Houston according to the Census, but has 50% more households according to Nielson. I'm betting Nielson is including wide swaths of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and eastern Pennsylvania in Philly's TV market, even though they can be pretty far from the city itself. What's the common thread between Philly and Tampa? Lots of nearby coastline, and people like to live near a coast, even if it's far from a metro. Certainly Houston has its share of nearby coastline, but it hasn't filled in with the same density as the northeast or Florida (tip: buy now while it's still affordable).
The trends are all about what you would expect: LA, DFW, Atlanta, and Houston all growing strongly (the sun belt); NY, Chicago, DC, and Philly holding even; and Boston, SF, and Detroit declining (all from weak local economies, plus unaffordable housing in Boston and SF).
I have no idea if this will make any difference in the advertising you'll see and hear. How many advertisers restrict themselves to the top 10 markets? Seems pretty arbitrary and limiting, although it does hit almost a third of the country. Maybe now we get to see the "world class" commercials?...