Speciale To Nielsen: 'I'm Pissed'
"I'm pissed at Nielsen - personally," Donna Speciale, president-U.S. broadcast and programming at MediaVest, said Thursday during one of a series of panel discussions on the 2006-07 ufpront advertising marketplace, hosted Thursday by Media magazine.
"They basically put the onus on all the research departments of all the agencies and the suppliers," Speciale fumed, after being asked what her agency's policy was for dealing with the disparate ratings data during its negotiations with the networks, and TV syndicators.
"I feel like Nielsen has created chaos in this industry once again," she said, adding that the TV ratings supplier "should have held back this information and, on their own, done some due diligence" before releasing it as a marketplace currency.
Speciale and other panelists during Media's daylong Outfront Conference (to view a video of this panel click here), all took strong positions on the new data, which Nielsen began releasing late last year as part of its integration of digital video recorders - and time-shifted viewing - in its TV ratings sample. Later this year, Nielsen will begin incorporating time-shifted viewing from video-on-demand services. To deal with this shift, Nielsen now produces three separate formats of data: one for "live" only viewing, a second adding ratings for programs played back the same day, and a third for programs played back within seven days.
The contribution of the DVR data is still relatively small. Nielsen estimates DVRs are now only in about 4 percent of its sample households, but are in about 12 percent of U.S. households. It plans to have its sample in balance with the U.S. TV universe by this summer.
But the data already has produced inconsistent patterns, even situations where ratings including the playback data are lower than ratings without it.
Most big agencies like Speciale's MediaVest have advocated a wait-and-see approach, recommending that the time-shifted ratings be set aside for now, until more stable patterns become established. Some of the big networks have said they plan to use the playback data as part of their official negotiations, though there were some new signs that position may be weakening.
"Our policy right now at News Corp. is live plus seven [days], but at the end of the day we'll work with our advertising partners to come up with a solution that works best for them," conceded Bob Cesa, executive vice president-advertising sales for News Corp.'s Twentieth Television, DirecTV, and My TV network units. Cesa, however, noted that ad deals for DirecTV, at least, could provide even more precise DVR playback data. He said the satellite TV provider has access to clickstream information from three million households using its own set-top boxes.
"It's kind of a non-issue at Univision," concurred Tom McGarrity, co-president-network sales at Univision Networks, adding, "We'll probably follow the lead on this."
If the lead is anything like the one suggested by Aaron Cohen, executive vice president-director of broadcast at media buying giant Horizon Media, DVR playback ratings may indeed be a moot point. After asking members of the audience to raise their hands if they A) own a DVR, and B) skip commercials when playing back, Cohen said, "That looks to me to be 90-95 percent. What does that mean for live plus seven for me? Period. End of report."
Or as MediaVest's Speciale emphasized, "I can't do a deal on gut. Yes, we all think that people aren't watching it." But without more accurate data, she said, the industry will never really know.