That reversal led the MRC to request the simulation on what impact Nielsen’s pandemic workarounds had on its knowledge. In the end, that ended weeks of “denial, delay and deflection,” Cunningham says. 

There stay unanswered questions, like why Nielsen confirmed declines even in TV streaming amongst adults ages 18-34 for the six months resulted in February vs. the year-ago interval. Cunningham says that’s “opposite to 4 different sources, together with our member firms, who had a few of the largest streaming providers.”

The VAB says Nielsen’s month-to-month panel dimension went from 39,600 households in February 2020 to 29,500 in February 2021, and that latter quantity included the 9,400 “impaired” households Nielsen simply started visiting in late March. Successfully, that would have minimize the variety of households truly offering dependable knowledge virtually in half — at a time when extra individuals than ever are wanted to precisely depend viewership in an more and more fragmented TV market.

Nielsen cites considerably totally different numbers, with round 47,200 houses in February 2020, right down to 37,900 presently. And Mazumdar says that whereas 9,400 houses had been recognized as needing upkeep, Nielsen isn’t discovering issues with all of the houses.

Decline of Black and Hispanic houses 

Of explicit concern to networks has been the lack of Black and Hispanic houses from the Nielsen pattern. The VAB says Black houses in Nielsen’s pattern have declined 28%, whereas Hispanic houses have declined 23% and white houses are down 18%. 

Nielsen weights knowledge from remaining households to make up for such discrepancies in order that it nonetheless stories numbers for a consultant pattern of the U.S., Mazumdar says. However Cummingham says meaning unreasonably giant weight given to every minority family, rising the margin of error. 

That is particularly problematic since networks that particularly goal these audiences are already coming from a spot the place they should exhibit the relevancy and energy of the African American viewers, says one community advert gross sales chief.

Nielsen’s points with Black and Hispanic audiences isn’t a brand new one, says Louis Carr, president, media gross sales at BET Networks. “This has been an ongoing drawback. There aren’t sufficient meters in houses, points with maintenance and all being achieved in a well timed method. I’ve been having these conversations for many years.

“The issue is, when you might have such a small pattern and something goes incorrect, it’s magnified,” Carr provides. Pre-COVID, Carr estimates that one Nielsen family had a few 2% influence on BET’s rankings. With about 9,400 houses “impaired” throughout COVID, Carr says every house had as a lot as a 25% influence.

Carr factors to BET’s award exhibits, which frequently pattern on Twitter for a number of hours, however that social chatter is just not mirrored within the rankings. “It’s clearly not a one-to-one comparability, however you’ll count on it to be rather a lot totally different than a few of the outcomes within the rankings,” he says.

“We nonetheless, with regards to weighting, have a fairly set course of,” Nielsen’s Mazumdar says. “That’s agreed upon with the MRC.”

Nielsen has been working with the MRC as COVID impacts the combo of its pattern too, he says. “In the event you take all this data collectively, we felt, and we proceed to face behind the information and the weighting that represents what’s taking place within the market. We’re making each effort to verify the pattern is consultant.”

Actual change coming?

Whereas sniping between networks and Nielsen over TV rankings high quality has been widespread for many years, the depth of the present complaints and the expansion of alternate options are amongst causes to imagine that an actual risk to Nielsen’s monopoly is rising.

“We’ve by no means had an business earlier than that has a lot progress and promise that you’ve got in census-level knowledge units and panels within the hundreds of thousands, not the hundreds,” the VAB’s Cunningham says. “There’s not a market or a sector that isn’t helped by wholesome competitors.”

Nielsen has its personal play in cross-platform media measurement of video utilizing a panel within the hundreds of thousands underneath the moniker Nielsen One, which CEO David Kenny mentioned final week might doubtless turn into a key foreign money for advert offers throughout TV and streaming by subsequent 12 months. Actually the valuation of Nielsen vs. a type of opponents – Comscore – suggests buyers are betting on Nielsen.

However this newest come across legacy linear TV rankings could not encourage confidence in Nielsen’s skill to precisely measure a good broader and extra complicated video universe. 

“The networks are all taking a look at alternate options,” says Jane Clarke, CEO of the Coalition for Innovation in Media Measurement, an business group created 12 years in the past to develop enhancements to a Nielsen-dominated house. “Every of them is creating their very own proprietary measurement strategy. There are teams creating proprietary group approaches. It’s so fragmented that I believe there’ll in the end be some consortium amongst networks. And if something, this factor with Nielsen is pushing them to speed up that.”

She cites Comscore, VideoAmp and Oracle Information Cloud as main third-party alternate options to Nielsen. Emerging panel providers, which might assist present person-level estimates inside these huge family knowledge units, are “positively cheaper” than Nielsen, Clarke says, “however not excellent but.” 

Clarke says she was informed by one of many huge media firms greater than a 12 months in the past that it took out solely a three-year contract with Nielsen whereas planning to develop a brand new different to run in parallel for a 12 months earlier than making an attempt to make a change. Nearly all main networks are going into the upfront saying they’ll have a number of rankings or foreign money alternate options, she says. 

ViacomCBS plans to supply ensures towards Nielsen or Comscore knowledge, John Halley, chief working officer for advert income and exec VP of superior advertising options, mentioned at February’s CIMM Summit.

“The massive drawback with getting away from Nielsen is that it’s such an enormous quantity within the funds of each media firm,” Clarke says. “And these new panels are having hassle getting funding in that interim interval. You must get an alternate panel up and operating for a 12 months or two—and maintain paying Nielsen throughout that interval—and it at all times falls aside as a result of no one has the cash. However the huge 4 networks are closest to doing that.”

She says comparable spending hesitancy from entrepreneurs is making it onerous for the Affiliation of Nationwide Advertisers because it tries to assemble a brand new cross-media measurement pilot. “All of them assume the networks ought to pay,” Clarke says. The ANA declined to remark.

However actually Nielsen opponents see a gap. “That decline [in total TV viewership] after which it coming again immediately, that’s precisely what a foreign money shouldn’t be,” says Comscore Chief Income Officer Carol Hinnant. “Small panels are simply now not dependable.”

VideoAmp Chief Measurability Officer Josh Chasin is extra charitable towards Nielsen, saying he believes the corporate has achieved the perfect it might to keep up panel high quality through the pandemic. However he says the episode sheds mild on the down aspect of panel measurement.

“Consumers and sellers are going to be very involved about the complete foreign money that they’re counting on going away, being disrupted, and that clearly opens the door for different gamers, as a result of the legacy benefit goes away,” Chasin says. “What we’re listening to from each the purchase and promote aspect is that they need one other knowledge supply in place.

“Everyone acknowledges the ubiquity of information units that can be utilized as foreign money means Nielsen’s monopoly is coming to an finish,” he says.

Purchase-side skepticism

In the end any measurement different networks embrace has to get consent from businesses and purchasers – and that may nonetheless be a tough promote.

“The businesses assume the networks are posturing and whining, and so they do that on a regular basis and simply wish to undermine the numbers earlier than they go into the upfronts,” Clarke says. “And there are some underlying developments which can be actual. Linear TV is down.”

“The networks are actually posturing on this,” says Cathy Shaffner, chief funding officer of impartial media store Empower. “They’re utilizing it to garner the double-digit will increase they’re in search of within the upfront. There in all probability was slightly bit much less of a dip [than Nielsen estimated], however there actually was a dip.”

Shaffner says she additionally doubts networks are able to stroll from Nielsen. “The truth that they’re in a position to complain and get this impartial view and get the numbers modified prematurely of the upfront says they’re nonetheless tied to Nielsen slightly bit greater than they wish to be,” she says.

Nonetheless, Shaffner says with networks demanding that 20% to 30% of upfront buys this 12 months be in digital properties, which may be “the shove that Nielsen must get their measurement” of linked TV alternate options in place, “or they’re going to be out of date.” 

One other media company govt, who requested to not be recognized, mentioned many patrons stay reluctant to simply accept Nielsen foreign money alternate options, whatever the present controversy. “Purchasers love their year-on-year metrics, and till they purchase into a brand new view on effectiveness and outcomes, there’ll nonetheless be resistance from conservative voices from each the company purchase aspect and purchasers. There can be a CTV tipping level, however not but, and Nielsen must attempt to handle that transition and maintain their place.”

How is the TV business responding to the streaming wars? On Might 24 and Might 25 hear from advert gross sales leaders, company executives and prime manufacturers on the state of the TV advert market and the way streaming is poised to reinvent the $20 billion upfront market. RSVP here.