Questioning Nielsen's commercial ratings in report


Steve Sternberg, EVP/audience analysis at MAGNAGlobal, said in a primetime  audience report Friday that the confusion and misinformation about viewing levels for the current television season are the fault of the TV networks, the press and Nielsen Media Research: "Nielsen is happy to sit back, seemingly oblivious to the chaos their scattershot approach to releasing audience data has caused. We sincerely hope that they are expending the considerable resources they seem to be applying to numerous other areas, to streamline their processes, and figure out a way to get average commercial minute audience data to the industry faster than the current three to four week lag time."

The main reason, he says this is so critical is because marketplace currency switched from Live Program ratings (LP) last season, to Average Commercial Minute ratings plus 3 days of DVR commercial playback (C3) this season. "Advertisers therefore need to see both metrics to help determine what impact switching audience measurement methodology has on the cost-efficiencies of their national television buys, and to get an indication of how many more or fewer rating points are available for sale in the marketplace (i.e., has supply changed significantly from a year ago)," he said in the report.

Lisa Quan, VP, Director of Audience Analysis, MAGNA Global, tells TVBR one of the issues behind the report was that Nielsen "promised to give us a year’s worth of evaluation data. That got cut down to nine months; that got cut down to six months; that got cut down to Summertime data, only. And that was supposed to be the time in which everyone was to agree whether or not this stuff is going to be stable, consistent and accurate. When we’re trying to do analyses–and just jumping headlong into the new season using a new metric that hasn’t had a track behind it is disconcerting for everybody, not just networks but agencies as well. We’ve only had Summertime to look at, which is going to be different from television usage in the fall, wintertime, etc. I believe, they are still not prepared to deal with the regional sports feeds they are getting. That was a problem that some of the networks had-I know Fox with football had raised some questions whether or not it was being processed properly."

Nielsen SVP/Communications Jack Loftus tells TVBR: "We’re always looking to be faster. I think that the point about getting information out to the marketplace faster is a good one-we’re trying to do just that. But Steve was at the vanguard of those folks who asked us to provide these kinds of commercial ratings data, and that’s what we’re doing. We are currently working on ways of getting the information out there faster."

TVBR/RBR observation: Nielsen is sort of caught between a rock and a hard place here. They can’t rush the data out earlier-and have it be flawed. Their number one concern is reliable data. They have to get it right and it is taking a bit longer than some thought. The good news is Fall data will be coming out soon, and Winter on a faster track. Once the information is established for an entire year, commercial minute ratings will be firmly established as a currency. We all want that to be sooner, but some things are worth waiting for.