Nielsen To Add Out-of-Home Viewers To National Ratings In 2020

After years of testing, Nielsen announced that it will incorporate out-of-home audiences in its national TV ratings, starting in fall 2020.

Television networks — news and sports networks in particular — have been urging the change for years, in order to be able to include viewers in the business world, as well as in restaurants, bars, hotel rooms and other people’s homes, in the audience counts on which they base their advertising CPMs and negotiations.

Based on testing and experience to date, sports networks can see an average lift of 11% in total audience when OOH viewership is integrated, and news networks can see an average lift of about 7%, Nielsen head of product, TV and audio Scott N. Brown told Variety, which first reported the news.

For instance, Nielsen’s 2019 Super Bowl audience count of 100.7 million rises by 12 million when out-of-home viewership is added, noted the Associated Press.

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Determined to include OOH in its audience numbers, NBCUniversal’s CNBC stopped using Nielsen for audience measurement of its daytime programming in late 2015, turning instead to financial/investment community research firm Cogent Reports.

“Traditional measurement companies have struggled to capture CNBC’s audience of business executives, decision makers and affluent investors who watch our network from their corner offices, trading floors, five-star hotel rooms, country clubs, restaurants and health clubs,” said Mark Hoffman, then president and now chairman of CNBC, at the time.

Nielsen has been working for a decade on out-of-home measurement and testing its portable device that picks up embedded audio signals for that purpose.

Since 2008, it has been offering a “stand-alone” out-of-home viewership measurement service in some major markets. ESPN, Fox Sports and CNN and Turner Sports are among the networks that have used the offering. Networks have sometimes struck their own OOH audience-inclusive deals with advertisers.

Disney’s ESPN took things to a new level during the 2017 upfront by saying it would sell a “total live audience” measure, including linear and streaming TV audiences, as well as offering to do business incorporating a Nielsen out-of-home measure, noted Variety. ESPN subsequently reported that more than half of media buyers had agreed to use numbers from out-of-home sources.

Nielsen had already declared its intention to start counting OOH audiences in local markets as of next month, but that this would not affect national ratings, according to Sports Business Journal.

The networks hope that total audience increases resulting from integration of out-of-home into Nielsen’s national ratings will help reduce some of the tensions in the buying process that have resulted from advertisers paying higher CPMs even as linear viewership has been steadily declining due to competition from OTT and other alternate viewing devices and channels.

7 comments about "Nielsen To Add Out-of-Home Viewers To National Ratings In 2020".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 12, 2019 at 12:33 p.m.

    Perhaps the first sentence should read, "After years of foot-dragging"

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 12, 2019 at 12:58 p.m.

    Douglas, until Nielsen acquired Arbitron's PPMs recently it had no way to measure OOH "viewing". Also, there are real questions about whether the PPM findings represent "viewing or merely that the set is on and the PPMs can "hear" it. In addition, by relying on audio markers the PPMs may understate the incidence of OOH set activity. So its not really foot dragging by Nielsen. A better term might be moving carefully ---and responsibly----rather than jumping is as fast as possible. In addition, OOH "viewing" generally adds only 2-3 % to in-home audiences---despite highly publicized exceptions like The Super Bowl. And, as I noted, we don't have the same degree of confidence about whether the OOH "viewer" is really "viewing" relative to his/her in-home counterpart.

  3. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, September 12, 2019 at 1:54 p.m.

    Ed, you may have seen research from others showing that those watching in groups in out of home locations like bars can be extremely and heavily engaged. This is not background without sound.  I know that Turner Sports and ESPN have shown that watching sports in out of home locations has been particularly effective as those watching their favorite team together crtreate a very enthusiastic crowd.  I haven't seen sports advertisers dispute the value of this kind of viewing.  Those watching NCAA's in a bar, for example, would and should be expected to be engaged and benefit from the crowd they are watching with.  Each event requires the skilled judgement of the media buyerand planner to guage the out of home upside to their ad.  I am confident that they can do just that.  In any case, I'm sure you will agree that it is better for a measurement service to be complete and count all viewing rather than than to pick an choose which viewing matters.  Completeness is better.  

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 12, 2019 at 2:07 p.m.

    Jack, I do agree that it's better to have an indication of possible OOH TV exposure rather than none and I also agree that the networks should try to monetize all viewing of their ad-supported content---OHH, digital, whatever. My point is that there is evidence that OOH viewing, when it takes place, as a rule---but not always---generates less involvement. For example,MRI askes its respondents about the last time they saw hundreds of TV shows, including where they saw the show and how attentive they were. Where a typical full attentive percentage claim for in-home viewing is in the vicinity of 50% and for certain types of shows considerably higher, the corresponding percentage for OOH viewing is often only half as high. This does not mean that all OOH exposures are of little consequence or that all OOH "viewers" pay no attention---but it's a warning sign that buyers should be aware of. If they chose to acept all OOH "viewing" as equal in value to in-home, that's fine with me. I wouldn't.

  5. Steve Sternberg from The Sternberg Report, September 12, 2019 at 2:55 p.m.

    While I seldom disagree with Jack or Ed, and I do not question that bar viewers are attentive to the program, it is simply ridiculous to think that commercials are anywhere near as effective as in home. Anyone who watches sports in a bar, particularly in groups, knows that they can’t hear the commercials and seldom watch them. I did a lot of research on tho subject when I was at Magna. Any agency or advertiser who accepts this is not doing their job. 

  6. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, September 12, 2019 at 4:33 p.m.

    But that does not mean that the exposures should go unmeasured unreported or ignored. More research on specific types of events is something agencies can and should do, as did you. These media investments are significant and the return on the knowledge would be solid. 

  7. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate replied, September 13, 2019 at 8:34 a.m.

    You might be surprised at how many agencies and advertisers are not doing their job on this one. A strong marketplace coupled with mega-agencies that can't say "no" are driving this train.

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