Nielsen Brings 'Live' Local Ratings Back From Grave

In a development that is sure to please major advertisers and agencies who buy local television advertising, Nielsen Thursday issued a surprise announcement that it will bring back its "live-only" local TV ratings, effective with the start of the 2010-11 TV season. Nielsen originally dropped the live-only TV ratings in April, when it implemented a plan to introduce time-shifted ratings data in local TV markets, and said its data processing capabilities at that time only enabled it to provide three streams of data, and that the majority of its clients did not believe the live-only ratings were as important as the ones including time-shifted viewing, even though major ad agencies insisted they were vital to their local TV planning, buying and posting.

"We believed (and still believe) that the live/same day, live/plus 3 and live/plus 7 streams were the most reflective measures of how people watch television," Nielsen Senior Vice President-Managing Director of Local Media Client Services Sabrina Crow reiterated in the notice sent to clients Thursday afternoon.



"Given our capacity limitations, the feedback we received from the industry as a whole, and Nielsen and client analysis of consumers' viewing patterns, we eliminated live-only ratings from our local overnights and electronic data files," she noted, adding that the decision to restore the live-only ratings stream is the result of Nielsen's ability to increase its local TV ratings data processing.

Nielsen President-Global Media Client Services Dave Thomas alluded that Nielsen might develop such a solution during a contentious panel discussion on the topic at Media magazine's Outfront Conference on April 27th in New York.

Some big agencies, especially Publicis' SMGX and WPP's GroupM, backed by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, had fought a desperate battle to try and prevent Nielsen from abandoning the live-only ratings, because most advertisers and agencies don't believe that time-shifted audience viewing guarantees viewers are watching their commercials. And unlike that national TV market's so-called C3 ratings standard, which included time-shifted viewing of average commercial minute ratings, the local TV ratings so far do not measure commercial viewing, just the programming.

But in Thursday's announcement, Nielsen's Crow implied a commercial ratings solution may be imminent for local television as well.

"We know that neither live-only nor live/same day ratings are an ideal substitute for the C3 ratings that our national Clients receive," she wrote, adding, "We are actively exploring alternatives which might more closely mirror the national C3 methodology at the local level. To that end, we have been working with the ANA and select advertisers to test the concept of commercial encoding. As we move toward the goal of developing commercial ratings we will be consulting closely with all our clients to ensure that we develop a solution that better captures how people watch television advertising today."

Meanwhile, Nielsen said it plans to resume reporting live-only audience estimates effective with the start of the 2010-11 season, and said it would make all of the estimates from the ensuing months available retroactively at that time.

2 comments about "Nielsen Brings 'Live' Local Ratings Back From Grave".
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  1. Andrew Crowley from ggiyt, July 2, 2010 at 2:16 p.m.

    Nielsen need to close their doors. I've been monitoring a company that is up and coming to rival Nielsen and I think they will replace Nielsen pretty soon. I predict Joe will write an article next year that will headline: "Nielsen RIP"

  2. Ann Carrigan, July 2, 2010 at 6:55 p.m.

    I think this item should be clarified: "the local TV ratings so far do not measure commercial viewing, just the programming." Technically, what is currently measured is a quarter-hour interval of television viewing, so it includes both whatever commercials AND programming which air in the time period, but not exclusive of each other.

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