Big Shifts At Nielsen As Two Familiar Faces Exit


For 16 years, she’s been a key executive at Nielsen, rising to GM and Head of Product Advanced Video Advertising in January 2019.

For 12 years, he’s been a product development leader who in April 2019 ascended to the role of GM and Head of Product for Audience Measurement.

Both will soon be former employees, but the latter departure is perhaps more noteworthy, given growing grumbles from the biggest TV networks that the pandemic resulted in audience undercounting by Nielsen.

Scott Brown, who rose through the product development ranks at Nielsen upon joining the company in 2009 as a Data Science Quality Assurance Director, is exiting.

Scott Brown, Nielsen
Scott Brown, Nielsen

According to MediaPost, he’s heading to Experian. Independent verification by RBR+TVBR of the report with Nielsen was still forthcoming at publishing time.

At Nielsen, Brown set the strategy for launching a currency-grade cross media measurement product across linear and digital. Industry-wide, Brown is considered a thought leader.

While Brown’s departure is not tied to the current back and forth Nielsen is engaging with the VAB, the timing of talent exiting its’ doors is not optimal.

Brown’s departure comes amid a furor over alleged “systematic under-counting” by Nielsen, offered up by the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB). According to their findings, Nielsen lost 20% of its panelists due to this “under-counting.”

As the VAB explained, “Nielsen largely stopped visiting its panelists’ homes to make sure they were still properly participating because of the pandemic.”

This, VAB President/CEO Sean Cunningham argues, led to the under-count. He asks “Nielsen has streaming declining among 18-34 in 2020 versus 2019. How could this possibly be true?”

The Big Four networks are equally frustrated with Nielsen. According to Variety, CBS, ABC, NBC and the VAB collectively requested that Nielsen be subject to a third-party audit to be conducted by EY. They seek a response by Monday to the request.

In response to RBR+TVBR‘s request for comment on the flap, a Nielsen spokesperson offered a prepared statement:

“Over the course of the last year, COVID has disrupted lives, families, organizations and businesses. Nielsen is no different. We leaned in, kept the panel, our people and the ratings estimates safe and, like many of our clients, continued to operate.” 

In early March 2021, Nielsen started its return to pre-COVID maintenance protocols. In concert with local government guidance, this included the resumption of in-home field visits with the goal of returning to normal as quickly as possible. “While we have always been in the field, our return to in-home visits helps maintain our representative measurement panel and allows us to execute our Nielsen One vision for true, comparable cross-platform metrics,” the Nielsen spokesperson explained. “We have confidence in the fidelity of our ratings estimates and are focused on the continued quality of our panel.”

In fact, Nielsen responded to the VAB criticism by offering up research that shines a light on the “integrity” of its panel data and how audience viewership has shifted during COVID.

“Our research has shown that the audience estimates are in line with trends observed via other data sources, and we see no evidence to suggest that changes made during COVID to the panel have materially changed the audience estimates as reported,” the Nielsen representative said.

The research also takes a look at the value and impact that new content has in the marketplace, overall changes in premiere content scheduling and how streaming platforms play a significant role in the future of the entire media landscape. “We are working alongside clients to help the industry understand the true impact COVID has had on these accelerated shifts in audience behaviors,” the spokesperson said. “We have been fully transparent with clients and the MRC and will continue to guide the industry through the multiple factors that have influenced audience viewership during these unprecedented times.”

“We have been fully transparent with clients and the MRC and will continue to guide the industry through the multiple factors that have influenced audience viewership during these unprecedented times.” — Nielsen


Meanwhile, Kelly Abcarian, who joined Nielsen in May 2005 as a Program Manager and has been a highly visible member of the global audience measurement team at Nielsen, is shifting to Roku once it completes its previously reported acquisition of Nielsen’s advanced video advertising business.

As RBR+TVBR reported March 1, Nielsen ad and content products will be integrated into the Roku platform via a “strategic alliance.” However, the pact’s key takeaway is that Roku will acquire Nielsen’s Advanced Video Advertising (AVA) business. This includes Nielsen’s video automatic content recognition (ACR) and dynamic ad insertion (DAI) technologies.

And, Abcarian will continue to lead those businesses, now under Roku.

“I am so proud to lead a team that has built an amazing addressable product that can scale under Roku’s leadership,” she said March 3 via LinkedIn.