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A consortium of TV networks is demanding an independent audit of Nielsen ratings — the latest volley in a dispute between broadcasters and the company that measures their audiences.
The Video Advertising Bureau, an industry group that acts as a bridge between networks and advertisers, claims Nielsen has let the size and quality of its national TV panel degrade since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year. That’s resulted in undercounting viewers and a potential loss of ad revenue for networks going into the upfront season.
“We have confidence in the fidelity of our ratings estimates and are focused on the continued quality of our panel,” Nielsen said in a statement last week, in response to VAB claims that the ratings service’s national panel had shrunk by as much as 20 percent during the pandemic. Nielsen countered with a study of its own saying its ratings data are consistent with findings from other sources about TV viewing patterns in the past year.
Now the VAB is asking for a third-party audit of Nielsen ratings in the past year. “I am conveying to you in the strongest possible terms the VAB’s profound dissatisfaction and concerns with Nielsen’s handling of our industry’s months-long urging for rightsized remedies to shortfalls in the company’s COVID period TV usage and measurement data,” VAB CEO Sean Cunningham wrote in a letter to Nielsen CEO David Kenny.
The letter also asks for an audit of Nielsen TV ratings beginning with March 2020 to be performed by Ernst and Young, with the possibility of recommending “market-facing numerical adjustment factors” if there are any disparities.
“Nielsen is committed to providing reliable and accurate data to the media industry,” the company said Thursday. “We received VAB’s letter and we are in the process of evaluating our next steps.”
April 16, 2 p.m. Updated with Nielsen Thursday statement.
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