TV ad trade group the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) has asked the Media Rating Council (MRC) to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation in response to its claim the research company continues to under-count TV viewing -- as well as under-representing Black and Hispanic homes -- as a result of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In writing to the MRC, the VAB says Nielsen violated at least five minimum standards that are “still creating material negative impact into July 2021.”
For example, it says data from Nielsen’s national TV "in-tab" respondents is down 18% -- 6,833 respondents -- in June 2021 versus February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. In-tab is the number of households or persons supplying usable information that can be tabulated as part of Nielsen's ratings.
The VAB says this has resulted in lower viewership. It previously said in the first three months of 2021 total weekly-reach TV use dropped dramatically to an 87% average from 92% for all of 2019.
Nielsen’s has a nearly 40,000 national TV household panel and at the start of the pandemic in March, it suspended regular maintenance chores -- field agents who go into homes of its TV panel -- due to pandemic-infection concerns. This past spring Nielsen has said it resumed such tasks.
In April, the VAB said there was a 23% decline in Hispanic TV panel homes; a 28% decline in Black TV panel homes; and a 14% fall in Asian TV panel homes during the pandemic period.
Of the five reasons for asking the MRC for suspending accreditation, the VAB says Nielsen had:
1) an “ineffective continuity plan,” which should have assured business procedure to “continue during natural disaster or business disruption.”
2) Nielsen offered no disclosure to it clients, such as TV networks, media agencies, and no previous independent tests prior to Nielsen’s stopping maintenance.
3) “Quality control procedures were not maintained” by Nielsen for the period in question, from 2020 through 2021.
4) The VAB says Nielsen ratings reports during this period had no required advanced disclosures.
5) Nielsen’s procedures during the pandemic that “led to the doubling (or more) of zero tune-in homes were not based on logical procedures that were consistently applied.”
A Nielson spokesperson responded to TVND: "We are fully committed to returning to pre-COVID operations and are working closely with and through the MRC to address any outstanding issues and requests and are committed to their process concerning accreditation."