AAAAs letter blasts Nielsen over killing live stream metric


As we predicted in our story last week, the 4A’s has written a letter to Susan Whiting, Chairman of Nielsen Media Research over the ratings company’s decision to change the metric upon which ad deals for local TV ads are transacted—from Live to Live + same-day. Said Marc Goldstein, President and CEO, Group M NA and Chair, 4A’s Media Policy Committee, who penned the letter on 11/18:

“Dear Ms. Whiting:

As the Chairman of the 4A’s Media Policy Committee, and on behalf of members of the association’s Local TV / Radio and Media Research Committees, I want to express my absolute displeasure and disappointment with your recent decision regarding local broadcast ratings.

Your total disregard for the expressed concerns of local broadcast media buyers, coupled with your adamant refusal to recognize our point of view is totally unacceptable. Rather than maintain Nielsen’s traditional role as an “honest broker” of data and information, you have instead chosen to insert yourselves in the buy/sell process and in so doing you have sacrificed your credibility.

We do not quibble with your desire or the local stations’ desire to publish “live + same day” data. This is not about the acceptance of new technologies or the inclusion of time-shifted viewing. It’s about your corresponding decision to eliminate a stream of ratings desired by the buying community that places you at the center of a dialogue between those two parties. Simply put, you do not belong there. This is a debate between media buyers and sellers concerning which data stream are used in negotiations. Nielsen is supposed to be a disinterested third party who provides data to fuel the debate. But Nielsen has now taken sides and in so doing your objectivity and perception in the marketplace has been sullied.

As I said, Nielsen can publish whatever new forms of data it desires. However, you must restore the “live” stream which you have elected to eliminate as a buying option for the media community.

We ask that you get out of the way of the negotiating process and let buyers and sellers operate on a free market basis.

Sincerely, Marc Goldstein”

The biggest problem, say media agencies, is if the marketplace went from live to live-plus-same-day, the ratings would go up about 13%. But of that 13%, 60% to 70% is fast-forwarded. Clients would be paying extra for programs that are not generating commercial exposure.”

Nielsen is set to change over to Live + same-day measurement of local TV viewing starting in January and will still make live data available to those clients who want it. Buyers say the data would now have to be customized, which could raise their fees.

Nielsen President of Media-Client Service North America Sara Erichson tells RBR-TVBR: “We are reviewing the letter from Mr Goldstein and will of course respond.  We continue to listen and talk to all clients about this topic. At the same time we continue to believe that the decisions we have made, which were arrived at after extensive client consultation, represent the best set of solutions.”

Pat Liguori, ABC Owned Stations V.P., Research told us she understands the points made by the 4As in its letter to Susan Whiting regarding local data streams, however, “I respectfully disagree with them.  Using Live Only data paints an incomplete picture not only of who is watching a particular program, but also of who is available to view in any given time period.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The saga continues. We’re not sure this could go all the way to legal action (Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at GroupM told AdAge further action against Nielsen could be possible), but a line in the sand has definitely been drawn. We think the networks should just stop allowing fast-forwarding of their content on DVRs. That way the commercials will then be watched similarly to the live stream and true viewership numbers can be measured and monetized. The first networks to implement the new edict and any technology necessary to make it happen will be the ones rewarded first by the agencies.