Nielsen Eyes 'Live' Plus 3-Day Local TV Ratings, Move To Closer Standard With National

Nielsen late Friday informed its local TV ratings clients that it is close to a decision on whether to move the standard for local TV ratings to "live" plus three days of playback of time-shifted recordings. Nielsen said it is considering the move to make its local TV ratings more consistent with the national TV ratings currency of "live" plus three days of commercial minute ratings. While local TV ratings cannot currently report commercial minutes, Nielsen said the move to the same time-shifted ratings standard would at least put the local and national TV advertising marketplaces on the same temporal playing field.

"After much evaluation of national data, we discovered that more than 90% of the business in the 2007 national upfront [advertising marketplace] was conducted on what is referred to as 'C3' or live plus three day average commercial minute ratings," Nielsen Senior Vice President-Managing Director Local Television Client Services Kevin Svenningsen said in a letter sent to local station and agency clients on Friday. "During this time we also began receiving requests from local clients to adopt a measurement stream that was closer to the national standard."



Nielsen currently reports both "live" only and "live" plus seven days of playback audiences in its local TV ratings. And while it's unclear which of those is currently the standard for local TV advertising buys, some agency executives said "live" plus seven days of playback has quietly become the local TV advertising currency, much to the chagrin of some advertisers - especially time-sensitive retailers who depend on their ad messages being seen when they are originally broadcast.

"It's an improvement over live plus seven," Janice Finkel-Greene, executive vice president-director of futures and technology at Initiative North America, reacted Friday after seeing the Nielsen letter.

Finkel-Greene is among those who believe local and national spot advertisers would rather have live-only, commercial ratings because of the "needs in retail, time sensitive advertising."

While Nielsen's local TV ratings meters theoretically could produce the same minute-by-minute data streams that are generated for its national commercial minute ratings, Nielsen has maintained commercial ratings are not yet feasible for local market television.

Among other things, all but the largest TV markets still rely on paper diaries for at least some part of their ratings information, and the diaries are not considered a very reliable source of information on either viewing of commercials or on time-shifted playback.

Agency executives said they will continue to push Nielsen to come up with some way of standardizing reporting between local TV's average quarter hour program ratings and national TV's average commercial minute ratings.

Shari Anne Brill, senior vice president-director of programming at Carat, said that conversation could take place as soon as this week, when the American Association of Advertising Agencies' influential media research committee is scheduled to meet.

In the meantime, she said, researchers are likely to develop some kind of mathematical system for factoring the differences between local and national TV audience estimates based on national's C3 ratings standard.

"In an ideal world they would be measured with similar techniques," she said. "But someone's going to come up with some kind of ratio" for standardizing ratings comparisons between local and national TV ratings.

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