Nielsen to publish Live Only ratings again


It came to RBR-TVBR from a very high-ranking TV group exec: Nielsen is going to start publishing same day, local Live Only ratings/data streams again. Indeed, they are, as Nielsen’s Gary Holmes confirms. Nielsen launched the Live+Same Day data stream and pulled Live Only as a regular stream on 4/1. Yes, this is what the agencies wanted back as a regular data stream from Nielsen for negotiations, but many TV broadcasters are going to be upset. Why? They want to focus on all viewing—including delayed. They think that is a more accurate reading of what is actually being viewed. The numbers are therefore higher and demand a higher rate. It will be back for the 2010-2011 TV season.

We asked Holmes: Agencies will love this move and will focus again on it for negotiations. How do you respond to both agencies and broadcasters on this issue?: “Our role is to provide clients access to data that they feel is relevant. It’s also up to our clients to negotiate with each other on rates and which currencies they choose to focus on.”

Nielsen had originally emphasized part of the reason the same day had been removed was that they only had the capacity to provide three data streams. Now they have been able to upgrade their systems to provide a fourth.

Nielsen tells RBR-TVBR:
“Based on extensive internal and client analysis of our research, we continue to believe the Live Same Day data stream is both the best local approximation of what people watch on television and the closest proxy for the C3 commercial ratings that are used at the national level.  At the time we introduced Live Same Day ratings, we only had the capacity to provide daily ratings from three data streams and we believed that Live Only was less relevant than the other three options (Live Same Day, Live Plus 3 and Live Plus 7). 

We have done the back end work necessary to add additional data streams and have started to have background conversations with our clients to bring them up to date on our progress

We are in the process of announcing to all our local clients that we expect to add a fourth stream for the 2010-2011 TV season.  Given the strong interest among some of our clients in Live Only data, we will be restoring that stream. The Live Only stream is one of the streams available in our national ratings.

We know that neither Live Only nor Live Same Day ratings are an ideal substitute for the C3 ratings that our national Clients receive.  We are actively exploring alternatives that might more closely mirror the national C3 methodology at the local level.  To that end, we have been working with the ANA and select advertisers to test the concept of commercial encoding. As we move toward the goal of developing commercial ratings we will be consulting closely with all our clients to ensure that we develop a solution that better captures how people watch television advertising today.”

Gary Belis, TVB spokesman, told RBR-TVBR: “TVB’s position remains the same as always.  We believe live-plus-same-day program ratings are currently the most accurate representation of local television viewership.  As viewing continues to evolve, we will continue to look for the very best way to accurately value local TV inventory.  We are maintaining dialogue with all parties.”

An “unidentified TV executive” voiced this opinion on the move:
“Nielsen negotiated with the industry and went to “live plus same day” as the standard in metered markets last year.  They dropped “live only” last December.   Now they are reneging on that agreement “for legal reasons” (a source tells me Group M threatened legal action, so Nielsen caved).  Agencies will want to post on the smallest number, so this will cost broadcasters money.  This move will be very unpopular, particularly since Nielsen is breaking a commitment it made to the industry.”

Speaking of GroupM, Managing Partner Lyle Schwartz (without speaking to any legal threats) tells RBR-TVBR they are happy with the move: “We (groupM) are pleased that Nielsen has decided to provide live ratings in a manner in which we can use in our buying and planning process. However there is still work to be done, we still need to bring all parties together to develop a  better measure of the value of local TV.”

Another industry source tells us: “There are no winners with this latest decision from Nielsen about the Live Only data stream.  Yeah, the obvious impact is on TV stations, but in the long run it’s the advertisers who’ll feel it.  Anyone who thinks you can use Live Only to execute the best buy for the client is mistaken.  It may cost less, but in the end, it’ll be less effective because you’re not looking at the whole picture.  There are ways to create ads so the message gets across even in fast-forward mode, yet how many have you seen?  Playing with data streams does nothing to increase ad effectiveness.”  

We will keep you updated as to any further developments.