Nielsen Tells TV Networks It Undercounted Audiences for Months

Nielsen is in the midst of a battle to count future TV audiences, but the company just revealed that it’s still having problems counting them in the present.

The media measurement giant told television networks and other customers on Wednesday that it has, since September 2020, reduced the number of so-called “out-of-home” audiences — people who watch programs in offices, bars, hotels and other venues — on national television programming. Nielsen cited a “software issue” for the problem, and pledged to publish the corrected estimates beginning in mid-January next year. But Nielsen said the process may take longer to process. In its note, Nielsen said audience data for some months won’t be available until February, and the release of information about outdoor viewing between September and December of last year remains “for later.”

“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. Although there was no effect on most broadcasts, and no effect on local television, we did find some differences in events that tends to have larger audiences outside the home, such as live sporting events, “The error has been corrected and Nielsen will re-release the data from January 2021 to provide it in order to provide the industry with the most complete data,” Nielsen said in a statement.

The slip comes after Nielsen has been subject to intense scrutiny for months. The Media Rating Board, an industry body that verifies audience measurements, removed its accreditation for Nielsen’s national and local rating services in September after the company determined it underestimated traditional television audiences during the pandemic. Since that time, a number of major media companies, including NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS, and Univision, have revealed new efforts to build audience measurement alternatives. ViacomCBS has begun working with large Dentsu-owned media buying agencies, and expects to begin testing transactions using other services early next year.

A close defender of television networks has mocked the error. “Today’s announcement by Nielsen of more systematic errors that have further reduced TV ratings over the past 15 months is more than the worst possible news at the worst possible time, for both Nielsen and buyers and sellers using Nielsen data as trading currency,” said Sean Cunningham. , CEO of VAB, an industry organization that represents television networks for advertisers. He called Nielsen’s error a “staggering omission” that added to “the unprecedented scale of Nielsen’s 2021 reduction and the deepest flaws discovered in their core competency in telemetry”.

Nielsen’s out-of-home accounts were seen as something of a panacea for the TV industry, when the benchmarking company agreed to begin using them in the fall of 2020. For years, television networks have insisted on attracting valuable audiences who watch news programs in corporate offices, and sporting events in bars. and prime-time programs at hotels and friends’ apartments, but no credit for doing so. Nielsen executives said in 2019 that new technology could lead to an 11% increase in audience for sports events and a 7% increase in audience for news programmes. This viewership is becoming more important for traditional media companies as the TV audience shifts to streaming video hubs and videos on social media.

But out-of-home service has also been a matter of contention. Nielsen has attempted to delay its implementation in 2020, citing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on consumers’ ability to watch TV in restaurants or doctors’ offices. Nielsen ended up following its original plan after generating fierce opposition from the television sector.

The pandemic appears to have little to do with the current imbalance. Nielsen originally built the service out of the home for use in its metrics for local television audiences, those who consume programs that are broadcast specifically to audiences in a particular region, according to a person familiar with the matter. But this product not only included homes that use broadband video, which is a large component of national television viewership. As a result, this person said, Nielsen’s national out-of-home schedules failed to include a significant portion of the people to be counted.

The revelation could impact Nielsen’s perceptions as it competes to make headway in a competitive new era. Networks are beginning to put together a new audience measurement infrastructure that uses companies like Comscore, VideoAmp, and OpenAP. Advertisers say they still want measures that have the support of the Media Rating Board, but the networks appear to be betting that a large portion of the future audience will emerge in places like Hulu, HBOMax, Peacock or Paramount Plus. Viewing data from these services is owned by the media companies themselves — and advertisers have proven willing to embrace similar audience proof from digital giants like Facebook or Google.

However, Nielsen is trying to move on. On Tuesday, it said it had enlisted ten different media agencies and media companies — among them Disney and Interpublic Group Magna — to begin testing NielsenOne’s new metering services, which are supposed to launch late next year and screen audiences on television and the new. Technological as well. The company also announced a plan to overhaul its commercial ratings, which has been a bedrock of negotiations between television networks and Madison Avenue since 2007. Under a new plan, Nielsen will track viewership of individual commercials, no matter where they appear, instead. From the ordinary public to commercial holidays, which was the norm.

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