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A key industry organization has suspended its accreditation of Nielsen’s national and local TV ratings services.
The Media Rating Council on Wednesday opted to revoke its stamp of approval from the measurement company for the time being following a string of complaints from networks and advertisers about possible undercounting of viewers during the pandemic. Nielsen had asked for hiatuses from accreditation while it worked to fix any issues, but the council turned those down.
“While we are disappointed that the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” said George W. Ivie, executive director and CEO of the Media Rating Council. “MRC’s board of directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters. MRC stands committed in our willingness to work with Nielsen toward the goal of being able to restore accreditation to these important services at the earliest possible time, and it is our hope that Nielsen likewise will continue to engage with MRC and its clients in pursuit of that goal.”
The Video Advertising Bureau, a trade group representing broadcasters and advertisers, has for months alleged that Nielsen allowed its national TV panel to degrade during the pandemic by not performing in-home maintenance on a number of homes in its national panel. As a result, the VAB contends, audiences were significantly undercounted in 2020 and early 2021.
“The united buy/sell marketplace decision to suspend Nielsen’s national and local market accreditation must be seen by Nielsen as a loud change-or-die challenge,” said VAB president and CEO Sean Cunningham. “In fact, all measurement and currency providers with big future aspirations in the video advertising sector must take the 2021 mandate for real transparency, full and deep audience capture, urgent innovation and rigorous verification as mission-critical for them all. Advertisers should expect to see more innovation in the next three years in video measurement and currency than what was achieved in the last 30 years, time has officially expired on friction and frustration.”
The suspension of Nielsen’s accreditation for national TV ratings is set to go into effect Sept. 20 — the first day of the 2021-22 TV season (as typically designated by Nielsen itself). The suspension for its local measurement is slated to begin Sept. 12.
As for practical effects, Nielsen won’t be barred from collecting TV ratings, nor media companies and ad buyers from continuing to use them. It could, however, open a door for other analytics firms to gain a bigger foothold in the ratings business; NBC recently sent a request for proposal to more than 50 companies (Nielsen included) for “accurate, robust, and independent measurement services” it can use across its ad business.
For its part, Nielsen stressed that it will continue to provide data to its clients. “While we are disappointed with [the MRC decision], the suspension will not impact the usability of our data,” the company said in a statement. “Nielsen remains the currency of choice for media companies, advertisers and agencies. We are committed to the audit process and during this pause in accreditation we will work with the MRC on resolving this suspension. We will also take the opportunity to focus on innovating our core products and continue to deliver data that clients can rely on, ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry.”
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