Nielsen nixes broadband inclusion in local TV samples for now

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NielsenNielsen said it will delay its inclusion of broadband-only homes in local TV market samples. This, after he NAB, with the support of the Committee on Local Television Audience Measurement (COLTAM), passed a resolution 2/6 regarding Nielsen’s local television measurement methods. The resolution passed with unanimous support during the 2/5 NAB Board of Directors regularly-scheduled winter board meeting in DC. From that resolution:


“Whereas: Nielsen has proposed releasing a new “hybrid” measurement later this year that would serve as “currency” for determining advertising rates in local broadcast television markets, and; Whereas: Nielsen is also adding “broadband-only homes” into the local TV market samples, thus reducing the number of “traditional” TV homes in the Nielsen sample, and; Whereas: The impact of both of these new measurements could Pat Liguoriunderstate actual viewership of local television stations, and; Whereas: It is in the best interest of everyone to have the most accurate research measurement; Therefore, the Committee on Local Television Audience Measurement (COLTAM) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Television Board of Directors resolves that: Nielsen delay implementation of hybrid measurement, methodology and technology until it can be fully tested in the marketplace, and Nielsen increase its sample size in local TV markets to make “broadband-only homes” additive to its samples beyond 2014.

COLTAM Chair and ABC SVP, Research & Electronic Measurement Pat Liguori told RBR-TVBR: “COLTAM is gratified that the NAB TV Board recognized the importance of the two issues we put before it.  That the resolution passed unanimously is indicative of the broad scope of concern among broadcasters regarding recent and proposed changes in Nielsen’s measurement technology and methodology.”

Said Nielsen on 2/12:

“Nielsen’s objective is to measure video content however consumers access it. And in the last decade, the places and ways consumers can view content have grown significantly. A year ago, Nielsen made the decision to capture viewing happening outside of the traditional definition of a Nielsen TV household by recruiting and including broadband-only homes in the TV Universe.

Based on a thorough evaluation of the viewing patterns in broadband-only homes and an ongoing industry appeal to maintain stable measurement in local television, we have decided to exclude broadband-only TV homes from local TV measurement and ratings for the time being. This change will go into effect beginning with the 2014-2015 Universe Estimates. Broadband-only households will continue to contribute to National ratings as part of the National People Meter sample. Additionally, the data provided from broadband-only homes will still be monitored and provided to our clients for insight and planning purposes.

And, a statement from Pat McDonough, Senior Vice President, Insight and Analysis, Nielsen regarding this change:

“In early 2013, the decision to include broadband-only homes in Nielsen’s Television Universe Estimate was made to measure the media behavior of the average US viewer in this fast-changing and evolving technological landscape. This change was made with specific and strategic measurement benchmarks in place as a way to study how this small segment of the vast viewing audience might affect the larger sample.

Based on a thorough evaluation of the viewing patterns in broadband-only homes and industry feedback on the need to maintain stable measurement in local television, we have decided to exclude broadband-only TV homes from local TV measurement and ratings for the time being. This change will take effect at the start of the 2014-2015 television season.

We will continue to deliver insights on consumer behavior in these broadband-only TV homes to all clients, including local TV clients, so that the marketplace can understand how TV and video consumption within this small group evolves.

Our clients will receive the full support of our measurement science teams as we move to a complete and holistic view of how media is consumed by local viewers in today’s marketplace. With this adjustment, Nielsen and our clients are now best positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of a fast-moving viewing landscape.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Good choice on Nielsen’s part to wait. Any change to measurement could have a dramatic negative effect on a station’s bottom line and should not be taken lightly.  One problem that immediately came to mind after the NAB-COLTAM resolution was how Nielsen would define HUT (households using television) in Fall 2014 when they start measuring tablet and smartphone tuning in local and national samples.  It’s better for Nielsen to get this done right than to get it done right now. Nielsen needs the buy-in from broadcasters—as well as media agencies—before it sets a new table.


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.