Due to TV usage undercounting of its national TV panel stemming from pandemic-related disruption, Nielsen has put its accreditation for its national TV ratings into a “hiatus” process with the Media Rating Council.
“We believe that moving to a hiatus allows us to concentrate our audit-related efforts on continuing to address panel concerns alongside the transformation of our national TV product and development of Nielsen One,” stated a company spokesperson.
In July, the VAB, the TV networks' trade advertising group, asked the Media Rating Council to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation of its TV data. The MRC is a nonprofit organization managing accreditation for media research and rating companies.
From March 2020 to March 2021 -- Nielsen’s field agents were pulled from regular maintenance of some 40,000 national TV panel homes.
This resulted in major declines in total weekly-reach TV use. In the first three months of 2021, for example, there was an 87% weekly TV use average, down from 92% for all of 2019. VAB called it “an unprecedented drop.”
In May, the Media Rating Council says there was an understatement of local TV viewing/persons using TV data, ranging from 1% to 4% -- depending on the market size -- during the period when Nielsen was not offering regular maintenance to its panel.
Major TV networks witnessed near 20% declines in national TV viewership for the 2020-2021 TV season.
For its part, Nielsen says: “Since March, we’ve been working diligently to get our panel back up to full strength by increasing panel size, improving demographic representation and addressing panel maintenance.”
At the same time, Nielsen says it continues to work on its new cross-platform measurement product, Nielsen One, announced in November 2020. The company says it will deliver that data beginning in 2022.
“We are also strengthening our CTV and streaming offerings as we prepare to launch a single, deduplicated cross-media measurement solution.
Yes, Wayne, Nielsen deserves to be spanked---and it's getting a lot of this recently. But Nielsen will remain the audience currency for TV and much of AVOD as well because of its long standing expertise in this area and the failure of any alternative supplier---there have been numerous attempts in the past--to demonstrate that Nielsen is producing a substantially inaccurate picture of how the various shows and networks are doing. While I agree with the VAB and the networks that Nielsen should be more forthcoming and open about whatever it is doing, I assume that this will shortly be evident when Nielsen and the MRC once again begin working together.
As I keep pointing out, Nielsen's ratings are the "spice" that feeds national TV ad sales---and local, too, for that matter. And Nielsen's methodology routinely inflates the audience projections that constitute the "currency" that it supplies. For example, it is clear---and has been for many years, that average commercial minute viewer tallies for national TV overstate actual commercial viewing by at least 100% and probably more. I don't blame Nielsen for this as it was forced into this "metric" by the agencies some years ago. It's methodology simply can't provide such information---yet it is accepted blindly as audience currency. Accordingly, an "understatement" of "viewing" of 2-5% caused by bad decisions by Nielsen execs when the pandemic hit, while clearly a mistake, does not seem like a total disaster. The networks and time buyers will, somehow survive.