NBCU Seeks Nielsen 'Independence,' Sends RFPs To 50+ Potential Suppliers

NBCUniversal, which has been outspoken about Nielsen's measurement problems over the years, has now reacted to recent Nielsen issues, as well as its pursuit of future measurement improvements.

“It’s time for us to declare measurement independence,” said Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president of measurement & Impact, NBCUniversal, Advertising and Partnerships and a former Nielsen exec, in a blog post. “We need all our industry’s builders -- including Nielsen -- to architect an entirely new blueprint.”

NBC has sent out a “request for proposal” to more than 50 of its measurement partners, including Nielsen, Comscore, Data Plus Math, Conviva, Truthset, VideoAmp and iSpot, regarding future “measurement yardsticks” for marketers in a streaming and addressable advertising world.



Abcarian says: “When companies depend on outdated advertising measurement, diverse and dynamic consumer behaviors get ignored. Meanwhile, consumer experience suffers with things like cluttered ad spaces. We should put people over ratings.”

She did not elaborate on outdated specifics.

Nielsen has been working on its cross-platform Nielsen One measurement -- a “cross-media currency” -- designed to pull the big media company away from outdated metrics. Many research executives say this process has been slow in coming. Nielsen One has an estimated launch date of the fourth quarter of 2022.

In addition, Abcarian emphasized that whatever new measurement model the industry devises, it needs specific, industry-approved business outcome data to be a key element.

“Without a way to measure an idea’s impact, innovative teams have a choice: Stop developing new media experiences, or build new measurement. Social and streaming platforms chose independence over a single metric because it enabled them to pursue consumer-led innovation. Now, the entire media industry can do the same.”

Finally, she called for a new “global currency” that takes into account consumer behavior that also “values content fairly.”

The NBCU release comes just days after Nielsen asked the Media Rating Council for a “hiatus” on the accreditation of its national TV service so it can continue to address concerns of its 40,000 U.S. household panel, as well as working on Nielsen One.

An NBCU representative notes this is the “third” service Nielsen has asked to be on “hiatus” in the last 12 months.

A MRC report in May confirmed issues of undercounting during the pandemic period of March 2020 through March 2021 -- initially brought up by the VAB, the TV network advertising trade group. The MRC said changes in Nielsen's panel procedures showed persons 18-49 were “understated” by about 2% to 6% in February 2021.

Through most of the year-long pandemic period starting in March 2020, Nielsen field agents were unable to service Nielsen’s panel of national TV homes due to the pandemic.

The VAB says as a result there was a sharp drop in total TV reach and usage in this period, resulting in a “theoretical 12-month cost” of some $468 million in national TV revenues.

8 comments about "NBCU Seeks Nielsen 'Independence,' Sends RFPs To 50+ Potential Suppliers".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 23, 2021 at 12:12 p.m.

    Wayne, does anyone remember the experience of Gale Metzger's Statistical Research Inc about 25 years ago when all three TV networks put up $30 million to support Gale---a very capable ex-Nielsen guy--- who tried to develop a superior methodology to Nielsen while still utilizing the basic meter rating system? At the time the networks were very displeased with Nielsen and as SRI's work progressed it was lead to believe that it might gain support to launch an independent rival service to Nielsen by the networks as well as advertisers. When the time came, however, everybody ran for the hills. In fact,only a few years earlier, there was a call for ideas for a new TV rating service---though without network funding---and a number of research companies invested thieir own money do develop alternatives ---only to receive thanks---but no thanks.

    If I were advising any of these 50 companies I would point to the lessons of the past. Sure,submit a written "what if" proposal and see how the network reacts. If it says, "That's great but can you develop the idea with a sample panel to show us how it works?"That's where the decision about money comes in. Pay for it yourself and you are probably throwing your dollars away. Insist on the network paying all or, at least half, and that's something else---a tangible indicator---not that you will supplant Nielsen---- as that depends on a lot of networks and ad sellers to agree--- but that the network you are dealing with is serious.

  2. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics replied, August 23, 2021 at 2:52 p.m.

    Ed, my memory is different than yours. I was at CBS in the SRI days. What SRI ended up proposing was essentially not different than what was already in place save for universal program IDs. There was no reason to pay twice for essentially identical services. If the current initiative yields another essentially identical product, there is risk in switching to a new provider and nobody wants to pay for two services. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 23, 2021 at 3:32 p.m.

    Jack, Erwin and myself, along with others were consultants on that project. My assignment was to work up a rate card for the networks and cable channels as well agencies and advertisers and, from what I saw Gale believed---based on what he was hearing---that he had a new service in the making. He was encouraged not only by the networks but by major advertisers who he visited and, I believe, made overtures to about the new service. You are correct  about the project itself. I recall a conversation with Gale---who I had known many years earlier when he was  at Nielsen and had lots of respect for---whether he thought a new SRI service would produce substantially different findings than Nielsen was reporting. He said that he doubted that and I turned silent as I knew right then that there was no chance for SRI to compete with Nielsen, let alone replace it. However that was the hope and I saw with sadness, the disappointment when it all fell through.

  4. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, August 23, 2021 at 4 p.m.

    Time for a TV/video Joint Industry Committee, JIC?  As Ms. Abcarian knows only too well, without a single common currency for the target group at the "Eyes-On" (Looking), or media Contact Level, or possibly at the "Attention" (Seeing) or Impact Level (albeit primarily a creative measure), meaningful comparisons across media platforms are very difficult as well as net reach or de-duplicated target audience estimates.  
    Ms. Abcarian refers to social and streaming platforms choosing "indepence (in measurement) over a single metric".  Perhaps it is long over-due for the broadcasters to remind agencies and their clients that so called "viewable impressions" or more accurately, CRC, content rendered counts, frequently promoted by those media are device measures.  Fundamentally important for Proof Of Play, POP, no question, but not measures of contact or impact that the networks deliver cost effectively.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 23, 2021 at 6 p.m.

    Tony, as you know, local TV stations have come up with an exciting "new" metric designed to tie in with digital media  and facilitate cross platform media planning/buying. That "new" metric is "impressions" which they think should replace the outmoded metric of GRPs. So they are, in effect, doing the exact opposite of what you suggest---accepting digital "impressions" as valdid audience currency. And the TV networks also seem to be doing the same thing as they try to bundle their "linear TV" and AVOD sales together. Indeed, according to reports, NBC used digital "views" as make goods for unexpectedly low Olympics ratings just a few weeks ago---and the buyers ---it appears---accepted this. 

    As for a joint committee ---involving advertisers, agencies and ad sellers--- the objection has always been that this would foster a monolopy and shut out would be competitors to Nielsen---so as a result we have a monopoly. Makes sense---doesn't it? However, until you convince advertisers that they must put up some serious money to help fund an industry organized and monitored TV rating service, nothing will happen. They just don't care---I'm sorry to say.

  6. John Grono from GAP Research, August 23, 2021 at 7:24 p.m.

    Many very smart operators are offering 'solutions' via their tech stack for video measurement.   And it is arguable that their solution is more representative for the broadcaster/distributor - as seen by themselves.

    But much of the current media research thinking is silo-based.   That generally results in 'improved' vertical analysis within that individual silo, as the owner can dig deeper and deeper into the data in the way they want to analyse their business.   But it does little for the brand advertiser.

    What is being over-looked is that media planning is more of a 'horizontal' process, not just within video measurement, but including print, press, cinema, outdoor, mall, audio etc.   From a media agency perspective (i.e. the advertiser's agent for efficiency and effectiveness) the wider you cast your net, you reach more people without annoying the hell out of them by ramming your ad repetitively doen their throats.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 23, 2021 at 7:50 p.m.

    John, the problem---assuming that it's a problem --is that too many of the national branding advertisers have decided long ago that they must tell their stories via TV commercials---which rules out radio and relegates magazines to a low secondary status. Also, there are many branding advertisers who are very concerned about maintaining their "share of voice"---meaning their share of TV ad exposures. They fear---not without reason---that if they cut back on their TV frequency while rival brands don't do the same thing, that they will gradually lose market share. This belief is supported to an extent by scanner panel findings --but it can be carried too far. In fact, given some latittude, a media planner could orchestrate a brand's TV ad "exposures"in such a way as to keep some distance between exposure while still maintaining "share of voice". But this latidude is rarely given by brands that insist on having their commercials run  in certain program types---sports and news, as prime examples---where they must be scheduled repetitively to use up the purchased GRPs.

    In other words it's often a ying and yang situation. What could be complementary and helpful---like better media scheduling and platform selection--- is not allowed to be complementary. So the only solution is using humorous commercials --which consumers tolerate better but which may not be effective product sellers---or pools of commercials--same story, different cast and scenario. Ir's a shame---but it happens because media is not integrated with creative or the totality of the marketing process.

  8. David Tice from Hub Entertainment Research, August 24, 2021 at 11:26 a.m.

    For anyone with an interest, I have almost all of the SRI SMART publications digitized and available on my website at http://ticevision.com/the-s•m•a•r•t-publication-archive/.  Those and a couple of boxes of binders in my garage are I think the only remaining archive of the SMART laboratory. 

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