Nielsen, Clients React To MRC's Suspensions

Despite heavy Nielsen spin -- on- and off-the-record, as well as to its investors -- that accreditation of its ratings services doesn’t actually matter, the consensus among some of its biggest customers is that the credibility of its services have been tarnished by the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) suspension of both its national and local services.

“The united buy/sell marketplace decision to suspend Nielsen’s national and local market accreditation must be seen by Nielsen as a loud change-or-die challenge,” Sean Cunningham, president-CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau said in a statement following the MRC’s announcement Tuesday.

Cunningham, who has been among the most vociferous critics of Nielsen following revelations that it has been underreporting audience estimates, added: “In fact, all measurement and currency providers with big future aspirations in the video advertising sector must take the 2021 mandate for real transparency, full and deep audience capture, urgent innovation and rigorous verification as mission-critical for them all. Advertisers should expect to see more innovation in the next three years in video measurement and currency than what was achieved in the last 30 years, time has officially expired on friction and frustration.”



“Measurement innovation requires us to collaboratively explore our options, evaluate multiple independent yardsticks, and expand the possibilities for our industry – because that’s how we become independent from our past and interoperable for our future,” Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president-measurement & impact, advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, and a former top Nielsen exec added in a statement, noting: “Transforming measurement is a team sport. We are looking forward to collaborating to make sure new measurement yardsticks are accurate and accountable and built on a foundation of fairness, trust, and shared values — so we can keep competing for audience and programming on the playing field we all deserve.”

While few other Nielsen customers have gone on-the-record with responses, a Disney Advertising Sales spokesperson issued a statement asserting: “Accurate measurement of our content – as it’s enjoyed across linear, streaming and digital platforms – is paramount at Disney. To that end, we work with multiple data and measurement providers, including Nielsen, to develop best-in-class solutions for our partners.

“We have become increasingly concerned with inaccuracies and irregularities in the data reported by Nielsen, and urged them to more quickly pivot their processes and practices to fix known issues.

“We are, and have always been, in support of two fundamental paths: first, the evolution of Nielsen’s methodology and measurement to encompass all the ways people watch content today; and second, the imperative for the industry to have accreditation to ensure the quality of the data upon which we transact.

“The modernization of Nielsen's measurement is long overdue, and that goal is critically dependent on the integrity of the panel, which remains compromised. We applaud the VAB and the MRC for taking the necessary steps toward quality data and transparency in the marketplace.”

Nielsen, which has downplayed the significance of losing MRC accreditation, including remarks to shareholders by CEO David Kenny during earnings calls, issued its own statement nonetheless expressing disappointment about the MRC’s decision

“The Media Rating Council responded to Nielsen’s request for a hiatus in accreditation with a vote to suspend our national TV ratings service, as well as our local TV ratings service,” stated a Nielsen spokesperson, adding, “While we are disappointed with this outcome, the suspension will not impact the usability of our data. Nielsen remains the currency of choice for media companies, advertisers and agencies. We are committed to the audit process and during this pause in accreditation we will work with the MRC on resolving this suspension. We will also take the opportunity to focus on innovating our core products and continue to deliver data that clients can rely on, ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry.”

In a letter sent to clients Tuesday, Nielsen CEO David Kenny said Nielsen understands and accepts the issues laid out by the MRC as the basis for its suspensions, but told them to "rest assured.

"We will continue to provide the most representative, reliable and robust audience measurement available, which the market can continue to trade on with confidence. While we work to remediate issues raised by the MRC, we think it’s also critical to continue building a media future that accurately measures and reflects the consumer cross-platform journey and keeps pace with rapid technological advancements."

4 comments about "Nielsen, Clients React To MRC's Suspensions".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 2, 2021 at 11 a.m.

    Wayne, I think that almost everyone---myself included----thinks that Nielsen handled the pandemic-related "undercount" badly, but this seems more like an excuse for the ad sellers to pressure Nielsen to get its act together regarding the inclusion of their digital "audiences" with its "linear" projections so they can monetize the former. This is understandable, but I think there are better ways to accomplish this rather complicated advancement than constantly berating Nielsen and issuing dire threats about "alternatives". This type of pressure only makes Nielsen more defensive, when it should be more open ---especially about how it plans to measure digital "viewing"---especially that done via smart phones.

    What's lacking in all of the rhetoric is exactly what the  networks as well as the agencies and advertisers want to see in an upgraded national TV rating service. Do "we" all agree that an indication of "viewing "not merely device usage is essential for both "linear TV"and digital? Do "we" all agree that an attentiveness measure is a vital addition? Most important, are all of "us"--advertisers in particular---prepared to really get involved not only with advice but with serious funding of such a new service?

  2. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, September 2, 2021 at 12:04 p.m.

    Nielsen is a joke.  Constantly making mistakes and every year there seems to be some big hub bub in the industry about its screw ups and nothing changes.  And they are constantly rewarded by everyone who is negatively impacted by continuing to use their services.

    In this day and age with the advancement of technology and phenomenal data collection, the industry is just being lazy by allowing Nielsen to monopolize ratings - unreliable ratings at that.

  3. M Cohen from marshall cohen associates, September 3, 2021 at 1:18 p.m.

    Joe,  In Nielsen's letter to the Industry, published above, they said...
    “A key decision we made at the time was to not enter panelists’ homes. This decision was designed to protect the health and safety of our panelists and employees and followed CDC and local government guidelines. The by-product hindered recruitment of new panelists and maintenance of existing panelist technology, resulting in a decrease in panel size.” 
    “We were not as fast nor were we as transparent as we could have been in reporting issues with our panel resulting from the decision not to enter homes at the start of the pandemic.” 
    With that in mind, many of us in the television industry, some of whom are not paying customers, deserve to understand what actually happened?
    My questions are simple ones: (perhaps you can get answers to these questions Joe)
    On which date did you stop having your field force enter your panel homes? On that data, how many homes were in your panel and what was the “in-tab” percentage of these homes?
    Did you install any new panel homes, during the period starting when you stopped having your field force enter homes, until now? How many?
    How many homes left your panel (forced and unforced turnover) from the time you stopped having your field force enter homes until now?
    When you had a technical issue in a panel home ("maintenance" is what you call it) e.g. where a piece of equipment is not working properly or when a panel home acquires a new piece of equipment, (like a new TV or a new iPad), and it needs to be wired, what did you do? And, did you take that home "out of tab during that period" How many homes were in this group?

    Finally, what were the number of panel homes, and in-tab percentages, monthly, for 2020 and so far in 2021?

  4. M Cohen from marshall cohen associates replied, September 3, 2021 at 1:39 p.m.

    So sorry Wayne (I originally thought Joe wrote the piece). Apologies.

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