Nielsen has always been the brand associated with TV ratings. But the changing television landscape — in particular, viewers who increasingly watch programs later on on a DVR or broadcast — has altered the reliability of these metrics.
These changes and the belief that Nielsen could not correctly calculate viewership anymore led TV executives to call for a different system, a different research company to measure ratings in the age of late viewing, wire-cutting, and viewership on the go.
It is likely that Nielsen’s latest announcement will increase the voice of those calls for change. As I mentioned diverseBrian Steinberg, the company has admitted it has reduced the number of “out of home” viewers for national television programs since monitoring that viewing in September 2020.
In other words, Nielsen did not correctly count viewers in bars, hotels, offices and other places outside the home, providing incorrect data and affecting ratings for a variety of national programmes.
“As part of routine testing and quality controls, we recently identified a bug that caused a decrease in the number of reported out-of-home viewers for our national television service,” Nielsen said in a statement. diverse). “While there is no effect on most broadcasts and no effect on local television, we did find some differences for events that tend to have a larger audience outside the home, such as live sporting events.”
The company went on to say that the error, which was attributed to a “software issue,” has been corrected and new supposedly correct data collected since January 2021 will be presented. However, the problem is exacerbated by Nielsen’s admission that the supposedly corrected information will not be available in February. Viewer numbers for the Fall 2021 season will be available on a “TBC” date.
Nielsen said in a statement. “The error has been corrected and Nielsen will reissue the data from January 2021 to present it in order to provide the industry with the most complete data.”
Network TV executives were already upset with Nielsen for delaying the release of outdoor viewing. At the time, Nielsen cited the COVID-19 pandemic for the delay. But this news makes it seem as if there are better reasons to want to rein in the numbers outside the home.
As you might expect, CEOs and media companies aren’t happy with this latest development. From the Steinberg report:
“Today’s announcement by Nielsen of more systemic errors that have further reduced TV ratings over the past 15 months is more than the worst possible news at the worst possible time, both for Nielsen and for buyers and sellers using Nielsen data as trading currency,” said Sean Cunningham. , CEO of [Video Advertising Bureau] An industry organization representing television networks for advertisers. He called Nielsen’s mistake a “staggering omission” adding to “the unprecedented scale of Nielsen’s 2021 reduction and the deepest flaws discovered in their core competency in telemetry.”
Nielsen’s agreement to measure (or attempt to measure) audiences outside the home was already a concession to television networks, which felt that the company’s previous ratings did not adequately reflect the evolving trends of television viewers. But this “astonishing omission” is sure to further erode confidence from television networks in Nielsen’s ability to measure ratings correctly.
Last August, David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery — soon to be Warner Bros. Discovery in a merger with WarnerMedia – expressed its dissatisfaction with Nielsen on a call with investors.
“I don’t have much hope for Nielsen,” Zaslav said, according to The New York Times. “I think somehow, as an industry, we’re just going to have to get out of that from a technology perspective and leave them in the dust.”
That feeling is likely to increase with Nielsen’s latest slip.