The Current And New Television Data Currency
This is a crucial time of year for the broadcast and cable networks. Not only are they embarking on the next upfront sales season, many networks are considering the fate of their original series for possible renewal or cancellation. Without the Nielsen ratings currency, no one feels comfortable making any important program-related decisions.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, we expect, for this company to experience server and delivery problems. In fact, Nielsen's track record is fairly good, compared to other consumer and B-to-B companies. But because Nielsen is the dominant player when it comes to television currency, any blip in data delivery, processing or collection is potentially catastrophic to its clients.
For the common good, the current currency must expand beyond Nielsen. It is up to the industry -- broadcast, cable, advertisers, agencies, satcasters, telcos, etc. -- to decide and agree on the expansion of data providers, processors and metrics.
Currently there are many streams of new set-top-box-based viewership data available from various DMAs and footprints. There is nothing, at this time, totally replicating Nielsen's national footprint -- but collectively, all this set-top-box data can be nationalized to form a fairly good national footprint in the future.
There are companies out there such as TNS, TRA, Rentrak, TiVo and the telcos, all of whom have data. A company like TNS with Direct View data has an extensive footprint that spans a range of markets with the potential to be nationalized. TNS has graciously provided me with performance data for comparison purposes to Nielsen -- for days where there was no Nielsen data problem and the days where Nielsen had to reprocess their data.
While there is a very strong correlation between the TNS Direct View and Nielsen ratings (+0.96) for the days examined, the two services will report different levels due to underlying differences in sample compositions and the fact that Direct TV homes have many more available channels than the average Nielsen home. With that in mind, we compared Direct View set top box data ratings to Nielsen Live ratings as a percentage of gross rating points based on household primetime performance for the five broadcast networks for April 27, 28, 29 and May 4, 5, 6, 2009 - three days of delayed data vs week ago.
Source: Nielsen, NTI Galaxy, as dated. Live TNS, as dated, second by second ratings projected to DIRECT TV's digital residential household universe
*According to TNS, ABC received 30% of the total 5 Broadcast network primetime household gross rating points on Monday, April 27, 2009.
Despite the sample differences, the two services report similar share of grps by broadcast network indicating that set-top-box data can help yield similar competitive standing results to the current currency. This is an encouraging first step in helping to establish a relationship between set-top-box data and the current currency. Obviously much more research is needed in this area.
But should future data delivery problems occur, we are not without resources. In this case, Direct View percentages could be applied against an established (and agreed upon) gross rating point universe to get a sense of the possible ratings level. Or, a grp share metric might be established to be used in lieu of ratings to glean performance.