4As Slams Nielsen For Local TV Ratings Change

Piling on criticism over a major change in local TV ratings measurement, the 4A's Media Policy Committee has penned a strongly worded letter to The Nielsen Company.

The letter that Marc Goldstein -- president and CEO of GroupM North America and Chair of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' media policy committee -- sent to Nielsen echoed major media agency executives' fury over the media ratings service's decision to eliminate live-only ratings in major local TV markets.

"Your total disregard for the expressed concerns of local broadcast media buyers, coupled with your adamant refusal to recognize our point of view is totally unacceptable," writes Goldstein in a letter sent on Wednesday to Susan Whiting, vice chair of The Nielsen Company.

"Rather than maintain Nielsen's traditional role as an "honest broker" of data and information, you have instead chosen to insert yourselves in the buy/sell process and in so doing, you have sacrificed your credibility."

GroupM executives have already expressed major problems with eliminating the live-only ratings data with live-plus-same-day ratings -- the biggest is that it could instantly increase local TV ratings by 13%. ("Stay of Execution: GroupM May Appeal Local TV's 'Live-Only' Death Sentence", MediaDailyNews, Nov. 12).

GroupM says it has long-term contracts with TV stations that would be affected. GroupM represents about one-third of all local TV media dollars for U.S. TV stations. The new system is supposed to go into effect in January.

To many executives, the move will be an immediate boon to struggling TV stations that have seen local TV ad revenue plummeting some 30% to 40% over the past year.

More recently, others have joined the chorus against Nielsen, such as John Muszynski, chief investment officer of SMGX, part of Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group. Starcom also represents a hefty chunk of overall local TV advertising spending.

Nielsen's response: it reviewed the possible changeover beforehand with all its clients -- TV sellers and buyers alike.

But recently, it has come to light that the TV stations' main advertising lobbying group -- the Television Bureau of Advertising -- may have had a major part in pushing for the switch. ("Agencies in Arms Over Nielsen Local Ratings Move: Call TVB's High-Five A Low-Blow," MediaDailyNews, Nov. 13).

Media agencies are not opposed to adding the live-plus-same-day stream -- just not eliminating the live-only stream. Nielsen says TV stations have capacity issues in handling additional TV audience data.

Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at GroupM, previously told MediaDailyNews that the media agency group has been discussing possible legal action against Nielsen.

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4 comments about "4As Slams Nielsen For Local TV Ratings Change".
  1. John Awwad , November 19, 2009 at 8:43 a.m.

    When someone watches a show that they DVR'ed is that counted in the ratings? If so,how?

  2. Caryl Behmoiras , November 19, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.

    That's what the plus is - live viewing is during the regular program hour, "plus" is the playback viewing. And it depends on when the consumer plays back, where/when/how it is reported. Same day is live plus, or there are other options like live plus three which includes any playback viewing within three days of the original program airing. The problem for media buyers is the question of commercial skipping in the playback. It is why many agencies have pushed for commercial ratings.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , November 19, 2009 at 10:09 a.m.

    Logically, Nielsen should provide both side by side, then judgements, decisions and balance move on from there. It sounds more like Nielsen cutting costs and increasing their own profits.

  4. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , November 19, 2009 at 11:17 a.m.

    I sympathize with buyers. There's no "plus" if viewers fast-forward the spots. The solution might be as easy as buyers discounting the new ratings by whatever percentage they deem them to be inflated. Furthermore, this would be a great time to move that spot money into sponsorships or ambush-media like movie theaters.