Nielsen responds to AAAA letter on Live + same day metric change


Sara Erichson, President, Nielsen Media Research Media Client Services North America, has responded to the letter fired off last week (11/18) by Marc Goldstein, President and CEO, Group M NA and Chair, 4A’s Media Policy Committee, 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.

We have the letter here:

November 20, 2009

Dear Marc,

I am writing in response to your letter to Susan Whiting dated November 18th.

Let me start off by addressing your concern that Nielsen is “taking sides” and that we have “inserted ourselves in the buy/sell process”.  We could not disagree more and believe that your suggestion that we have sacrificed our credibility is inappropriate and misplaced.  The only side we have taken is one in favor of best depicting contemporary viewing behavior.  Given the growing penetration and usage of DVRs, we believe the research is undeniable in suggesting that Live Only ratings no longer offer an accurate picture of the television viewing that occurs on an individual day.

In addition, over the past five months we have listened hard and extensively to all of our clients…both buyers and sellers…and believe that we have a very clear understanding of both sides’ points of view.  Our job is to weigh all market place input, look at the research and come up with the solution set that we believe meets the most needs of the most clients and is consistent with research findings.  As you know, this sometimes requires tough choices.

I would like to stress that we have absolutely no desire to be stuck in the middle between buyers and sellers as now seems the case.  We urge buyers and sellers to work together to determine what data set(s) they collectively need from Nielsen to transact business, mindful of the changed viewing environment which has impacted audiences associated with traditional measurement.  Currently it seems to us that there are no conversations taking place between buyers and sellers along those lines and we hope that this might change in the coming weeks.

Finally, we are committed to continuing the discussion with all our clients and are open to suggestions that find common ground between buyers and sellers.  For example, at a meeting of the 4As Media Research Committee earlier this week, we were conducting a bit of brainstorming on the spot looking for possible compromises.  As I just read in a separate letter from Donna Campbell I see that the ideas generated from that conversation were all dismissed as being insufficient.  Hopefully, however, dialogue along those lines can continue.

Best regards,

Sara Erichson
Cc: 4A’s Media Policy, Local TV/Radio and Media Research Committees
4A’s:  Mike Donahue, Donna Campbell, Chick Foxgrover, Claire Franks, Kipp Cheng, Jennifer Seidel,
 Nielsen: Susan Whiting, Dave Thomas, Sabrina Crow

Said a buyer regarding all of this, off the record:

I think what is more significant here is not what gets mentioned, but what goes unmentioned in the letter:

1) The fact that LPMs is are capable of reporting average minute ratings, we are still getting irrelevant AQH numbers.  AQH ratings means that if you’ve viewed at least 5 minutes to a quarter hour you are credited for the full quarter hour. AQH ratings are higher than average minute ratings.  

2) The fact that Nielsen won’t be accounting for fast-forwarding through commercials in its numbers. (National is avg minute for program and average commercial minute). Even if they could account for this, the idea of an average commercial quarter hour rating is nonsensical.  

3) The fact that Nielsen never stated upfront that they had a capacity issue and that they are only able to report a single data stream in the overnites. If these issues (according to Nielsen) are able to be resolved in the coming months, what was the urgency to force a change in the overnites now?