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How Did One Tweet Get Oprah Winfrey in a Ton of Trouble?

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

After Whitney Houston’s untimely death on the eve of the Grammys, the Sunday night awards show saw a 50 percent increase in viewership, but that didn’t stop Oprah Winfrey from trying to poach some of those eyeballs — and it’s gotten her into a lot of hot water with ratings powerhouse Nielsen.

Seems on that on Sunday night, Oprah sent out the following tweet to her nine million Twitter followers:

Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if u have a Neilsen [sic] box.”

OWN, of course, is the Oprah Winfrey Network, the legendary talk-show host’s cable network that’s been suffering from embarrassingly low ratings.

Nielsen, which is considered the gold standard of television viewing habits, monitors the 25,000 households with one of its boxes to come up with the ratings for every show on the air. So if people are specifically told to watch a show, that data is contaminated.

In fact, Oprah’s plea directly violated Nielsen’s terms of service — meaning the next time OWN’s ratings are released, there will be an asterisk noting the outcome might have been biased.

Winfrey has since deleted the offending tweet and issued a statement in which she apologized and said she “intended no harm.”

[New York Times]

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