4A’s Responds to Nielsen’s Revised TV Ratings Methodology

As has been recently reported, Nielsen has announced its intention to combine national in-home and out-of-home TV viewership into a single data stream, for use in calculating ratings and inventory pricing at the start of the 2020-21 broadcast TV season. Both C3 and C7 ratings will be affected.

This will take information previously available as two separate data sets and combine them into one, grouping together in-home viewership data with out-of-home data (encompassing bars, restaurants, airports, etc.) and making it challenging for agencies and advertisers to readily distinguish one data stream from the other. (Nielsen National TV View (NNTV) & MIT files will report combined viewership as a single value, although NPOWER will continue to report in-home and out-of-home viewership separately, and AMRLD will flag out-of-home records for review.)

The 4A’s opposes this proposed change for a number of specific reasons:

First and foremost, there is a vast difference between the attention level and environment viewing at home and in an airport, bar, gym, etc. This distinction is not reflected well—if at all—in Nielsen’s combined viewership data.

Second, the elimination of two separate and distinct data streams and the combination of in-home and out-of-home viewership into a single data set obscures the underlying information and ill-serves the marketing community as a whole and advertisers in particular. While the two data streams will be available within the N*Power audience analysis system, this tool is leveraged primarily by analytics teams and not typically used by buyers that will be negotiating investments on behalf of their clients. As it stands, there is not a clear plan to make separate in-home and out-of-home viewing data streams available in the buying systems more typically used by media buyers.

This newly combined data set is still under review by the Media Ratings Council (MRC) and is not expected to receive feedback from the MRC regarding accreditation until just before the new data stream is intended to be deployed in market as the currency metric.

“On behalf of the 4A’s Media Measurement Committee and the broader 4A’s community, I call on Nielsen to provide more equitable and transparent access to the out-of-home audience data stream in the buying systems that are typically used by agency negotiators,” said Peter Sedlarcik, Chief Data Officer at Havas Media and Chairperson of the 4A’s Media Measurement Committee. “This will provide a more balanced and informed dialogue between the buy and sell side as we start to transact on the new currencies scheduled to launch in Q3 2020.”

Below are key concerns with the current rollout plans:

  • Pricing impact: The measurement change will increase ratings and could impact unit costs. While networks may opt in and out of measurement, Nielsen is not currently giving advertisers the ability to opt out.
  • Validation: While preview data is available now, it is not accredited by the MRC. 
  • Operationalization: Buying systems cannot support both “streams,” so advertisers cannot repost historical buys to look at impact side-by-side with the currency data used now.
  • Preparedness: The out-of-home TV ratings are not included in reach and frequency data, so at this time, advertisers cannot plan for this potential increased reach of existing TV plans.

The 4A’s calls on Nielsen to take the following actions in order to best serve its agency and marketer client base:

  • Propose an alternative approach to reporting in-home and out-of-home viewing metrics that avoids combining audience figures from two widely different qualitative viewing experiences (i.e., more focused in-home viewing compared to typically distracted viewing out-of-home).
  • Refrain from combining the in-home and out-of-home audience data streams into a single metric by ensuring both the in-home and out-of-home audience streams are distinctly and readily available to all buyers via most third-party and proprietary agency buy management systems.
  • Delay launch of any proposed combined data stream until a full and complete audit is released by the MRC that accredits the new combined measurement approach.

It is in everyone’s best interest that Nielsen rectify this issue based on the considerations of our member agencies and continue to lead the industry in the development of accurate and transparent measurement solutions.