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.
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.