Commentary

Nielsen Can Take A 'Hiatus,' But TV Market, Upfronts Move On

Is the Nielsen TV currency system cracking? Nielsen asking to be put on “hiatus” technically means that TV networks and TV media buyers don’t have to adhere to the data the third-party researcher has delivered.

The reality for many is that little of this will occur, at least in terms of Nielsen maintaining its “currency” status in the TV industry for the foreseeable future.

Although the current drama is about the 2% to 5% undercounting issue of TV usage during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nielsen has had other longstanding issues with marketers and media, such as measuring the full impact of cross-platforms' media impressions and associated advertising data.

So, yes, negotiations might mean more TV sellers and buyers using other third-party data. But to be honest, they always could. Media measurement still moves glacially.

But will any of this move quickly enough in time for next year’s upfront TV market?

Nielsen can have its “hiatus” when it comes to its audit for accreditation of its national TV ratings for up to 12 months -- in theory.

In the meantime, Nielsen says that starting in January, some of its forthcoming, all-encompassing Nielsen One cross-platform measurement service will come online.

The betting is that TV networks, media agencies and their clients will stick to longtime price and viewing data -- pegged to Nielsen data -- from which TV networks attach new price increases. Marketers want to hang on to their low pricing basis -- even with crumbling national linear TV viewing.

Has anyone yet devised a formula for making all these historical transitions to other measures when it comes to price data, TV consumption and viewership? Can Comscore do this? Under what industry-wide, industry-approved measurement system would this be possible?

The view from Brad Adgate, veteran media agency research executive: “I don't think this is a seismic change otherwise Nielsen would go ahead with the accreditation process. Will they lose their accreditation? Will the networks stop using them? Hardly.”

Ed Papazian, president of Media Dynamics, says: "Understatement of viewing of 2% to 5% caused by bad decisions by Nielsen execs when the pandemic hit, while clearly a mistake, does not seem like a total disaster.”

Some TV network executives might say otherwise. Meantime, another surge from the pandemic might be coming. What will that mean for fourth-quarter TV viewing collection? Hold your breath.

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