VAB: Viewing Grew For Some In 2020 Despite Nielsen Declines

Boosting its claim of Nielsen undercounting beginning in 2020, the VAB, the TV network trade group, points to data from showing a number of different viewership metrics grew in calendar-year 2020 over the year before.

For example, it says the total monthly average household TV “ad ratings” were 6% higher to 3.97 million viewers per time period -- versus 3.75 million the year before. In addition, it said 18-49 viewers grew 4.8% to 1.97 million and 25-54 viewers were up 4.9% to 2.0 million.

With the U.S. strongly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in summer 2020, The VAB says “work at home” audiences showed advertising ratings were higher due to higher TV news viewing and the return of major TV sports franchises -- after that sports TV content was halted in March due to the pandemic.



The VAB has said Nielsen's halting of its in-home maintenance by field agents for its 40,000 national TV panel starting in 2020 led to  "undercounting."

There were major declines in total weekly-reach TV use, the VAB says -- to an 87% average in the first three months of 2021, from 92% for all of 2019, calling it “an unprecedented drop.” 

Recently, the VAB asked the Media Rating Council to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation of its TV data.

Major TV networks witnessed near 20% declines in viewership for the 2020-2021 TV season.

The VAB says data comes from 117 measured broadcast and cable TV networks and is based on national ad units viewed on a live-plus-same-day time shifted viewing and up to 30-day time-shifted viewing.

It notes this "includes over-the-top streaming, over-the-air transmissions."

The VAB adds the data was built up from individual ad impressions for every national ad unit, and then "extrapolated" from the panel to the U.S. TV viewer census. It then says the resulting data set takes the average ad rating within each day, network and daypart combination and is then added up to generate results for all of TV.

Data here comes from comes from 23 million smart TV and set-top boxes.

1 comment about "VAB: Viewing Grew For Some In 2020 Despite Nielsen Declines".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 26, 2021 at 8:24 a.m.

    Everyone, including Nielsen, seems to agree that Nielsen's problem with its fieldmen not checking panel member households during the pandemic's early, panic,, phase, was a mistake and probably caused a slight under reporting--- or projection ----of TV viewing. Somebody at Nielsen---or, maybe more than one person---made a bad call on this.  I would like Nielsen to become much more willing to let independent outside checkers monitor its practices to avoid future issues of this kind. I suspect that most of Nielsen's clients feel the same way. However, even though various alternative source findings are being cited as proof of Nielsen's assumed under reporting, I know of no other national panel that measures ---or tries to measure---all TV homes---not just those with set-top-boxes or those with smartsets or even all of the sets in a household---so even though these alternative sources are providing "evidence" that TV viewing rose slightly, rather than declining slightly in 2020, at present Nielsen is the only game in town.

    I think that Nieslen has gotten the message and is taking corrective action. Hopefully it will let us---or, at least it's clients---- know more---much more---about what it is doing and allow the MRC to review it's moves in an open and full disclosure manner. The time for spanking Nielsen maybe be past---perhaps, now the time has come for moving on and refining national TV rating measurements so they properly represent all types of "viewing" situations on a comparable basis.

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