Not-For-Attribution: Nielsen, That Is

It’s happening.

Nearly one year to the day after NBCUniversal released the first-ever Super Bowl ratings analysis from a source other than Nielsen – its soon-to-be-certified TV advertising currency iSpot – Nielsen still is being cited for the Big Game’s audience delivery, but not as exclusively as it once was.

The Super Bowl viewing analyses I’ve received so far this week included ones for iSpot, Samba TV, NetBase Quid, Captiv8, Sooth, and AdImpact. Others no doubt are coming later this week, but I want to single out the Ad Impact one explicitly, because it’s not even in the audience-measurement business.

AdImpact tracks ad occurrences and estimates how much advertisers spent on them in key categories, especially political, automotive, etc. So I was surprised when I got a Super Bowl viewing post-analysis, because the 884-word document references viewing/viewers/viewership 35 times, but never attributes what the source of its viewing data actually is.



Update: After publication, an AdImpact spokesman described the source of its Super Bowl viewing data this way: "AdImpact collaborates with data partners to track a panel of 10 million smart TV devices. Based on this sample, we are able to estimate the viewership for live programming, in this case for the Super Bowl."

Ironically, the only source I didn’t receive an explicit Super Bowl ratings analysis from this year was Nielsen, although my colleague Wayne Friedman did. Actually, it wasn’t even Nielsen explicitly, but Super Bowl network Fox’s analysis of a combination of Nielsen’s so-called “Fast National” data and Adobe Analytics.

Based on that dual attribution, Wayne reports Super Bowl LVII was the third most-watched in Super Bowl history. But who cares what the source is, because -- and this is the main point of this commentary -- we are poised to enter a period of audience-estimate anarchy, because there no longer will be a definitive source to attribute for it.

Or as NBCU measurement chief Kelly Abacarian reminded us at the network’s annual developers conference last week: “The clock is ticking. In September 2024, the currency we’ve all used for decades is going to disappear. That means no more year-over-year comps. Sorry, no more media mix models based on outdated TV metrics that are simple, siloed counting and was yesterday’s consumers.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s already happening. Long before Nielsen sunsets its historical TV ratings methodology -- and database -- it’s already lost the attribution battle.

And it’s not because the sell-side keeps certifying new, alternative currencies other than Nielsen – just last week, NBCU added Videoamp alongside iSpot and Comscore (local audience measurement) as certified currencies it will do business with advertisers based on.

And it’s not because Nielsen continues to operate its old-school national and local TV ratings services on an unaccredited basis (although CEO David Kenny vowed it was “months away” from regaining Media Rating Council accreditation – 17 months ago).

It’s because the buy-side has capitulated and is collaborating on the acceleration of new, alternative audience currencies, including the sell-side initiative to create a new JIC (joint industry committee) that would source, certify and oversee audits of new sources of audience data.

What’s my main point? It’s that a year after NBCU released the first post-Super Bowl audience analysis from a source other than Nielsen -- and a little over a year before Nielsen sunsets its entire historical database -- Nielsen already is no longer the definitive source for viewership estimates. It’s just one of them.

2 comments about "Not-For-Attribution: Nielsen, That Is".
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  1. Benny Radjasa from Armonix Digital, Inc., February 14, 2023 at 3:29 p.m.

    He said, "buy-side has capitulated and is collaborating on the acceleration of new, alternative audience currencies".

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 14, 2023 at 4:58 p.m.

    I'm not so sure that the "buy  side" has caved in yet,Joe. I think that the buy side is saying, "OK, so you want to 'certify' all sorts of 'alternative currencies' to what Nielsen will deliver with its new big data service---which will be average minute---or commercial--- viewer 'impressions' ---or opportunity to see---including those who leave the room----and that's fine with us". But at the same time the buy side knows that none of the "alternative currencies" will replace Nielsen nor will any be standardized. So, in effect, each seller will try to use whatever "alternative" or "add on currency" that is to the seller's advantage---and try to charge more for it--- via higher CPMs---and therefore it's the buyers' responsibility, as part of the negotiating process, to determine whether any of these offers---or alternative metrics---  provide added value relative to their cost on a case by case basis. All of which makes sense to me.

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