Commentary

Media Ratings Council's Approach Is Straightforward

Announcements come and go in regards to companies trying to capture part of the ratings business from Nielsen Media Research.  Just as quickly as the announcements get made, and the beta product launched, these companies discover they need to have their measurement technologies validated in the eyes of the industry.

In today's challenged market, where everyone is looking for cross-platform measurement, the more promising your technology looks for potentially solving this problem, the more important securing industry accreditation becomes.  It doesn't matter if your technology may be in demand, if it lacks accreditation by the Media Ratings Council (MRC), then you will still hit critical adoption roadblocks until you slow down and go through the MRC's accreditation process. 

Future Customers Look Under the Hood

For all the hyperbole surrounding "disruptive" business models, the approximately 95 board members of the Media Ratings Council -- made up of companies like A&E Television, ABC, Carat, Dial Global, Hearst Television, Proctor & Gamble -- are the watchdogs of all new measurement technologies for the media and advertising industries.

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The MRC -- which reports to essentially the majority of content distributors and their advertisers -- does not lend its name to promising young ideas.  The accreditation process involves outside specially trained CPAs who visit the technology company's facility and then check all its work product and technology processes to see if the measurement is sustainable and stable.

 

The MRC is a nonprofit industry association that was created in 1964 as an answer to a U.S. Congressional committee looking for our industry to self-regulate the TV ratings business.  Today, without the "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval from the Media Ratings Council, no technology has the chance to leap from limited rollouts into mass distribution to become a "currency" for the industry.

The MRC should not be looked at as a tightly controlled insider's club, perhaps influenced by Nielsen Media Research. That is not the case.  In fact, two of Nielsen's data products are still stuck in review at the MRC (data stream supporting National Television Commercial Ratings and National Average Commercial Ratings MIT).

Start the Process to Accreditation

The nonprofit council maintains a level playing field and ensures that minimum standards of performance are met by every technology.  Every accredited firm is audited yearly to ensure continued compliance. Getting approved is no "slam dunk" -- any budding entrant into the field of measurement should inspect the list of  those who are "accredited," "in review," and those missing from review on the MRC's Web site.

Perhaps because of the latest flurry of cross-platform initiative announcements, MRC CEO George Ivie issued on Aug. 14 a statement that "as of now, such specific-purpose industry measurement standards do not exist for cross-media and set-top box measurement. Measurement techniques, data cleaning and equalization across technologies, media neutrality, measurement metrics, calculation approaches, minimum disclosure requirements and reporting standards are among the matters that must be considered."

So the battle for market share -- especially in the emerging cross-platform arena -- continues to heat up as time-shifting behavior erodes today's measurement technologies.  But at the end of the day, each of these promising technologies will need to step up and go through the accreditation process with the MRC, earning its right to be a national currency.

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