NBCU Proposes It Is Time to Develop a New Ratings Service

In the wake of widespread discontent with the Nielsen national television ratings service, NBCUniversal issued a request for proposals to 50 media companies on August 2 to create a “new measurement ecosystem for us that reflects the future.” The media giant said it is working to assemble “a full suite of interoperable measurement solutions that are as advanced, diverse, easy-to-use, and multi-platform as the ways people watch content.” Earlier this month, Nielsen asked to suspend accreditation of its national service.

Variety reports that, “the Media Rating Council, a group that conducts audits of companies that measure media to determine whether they are in compliance with industry standards, has yet to rule publicly on the matter, which it began to consider last week.”

Nielsen has stated that it “remain[s] confident in our current measurement solutions,” but its ratings are less valuable in an ecosystem of streaming services and mobile video that enables advertisers to learn specifics of viewers shopping habits and other behavior.

At NBCU’s Advertising & Partnerships unit, executive vice president of measurement and impact Kelly Abcarian noted that, “the media and technology landscape has completely transformed over the last few years — yet measurement remains outdated,” adding that, “the advertising industry has not adapted and it’s holding us back.”

NBCU has not, however, revealed whether it will operate the new measurement system or hand it over to be run by a third party. Variety points out that, “one of the challenges of some of the new titans of digital media, such as Facebook or Google, is that the consumer impressions they generate are tabulated not by a Nielsen or other independent monitor, but by the companies themselves.”

That has prompted advertisers such as Procter & Gamble to “build out their own proprietary consumer data and use that to construct ad deals with various media partners.” P&G stated that because it “makes decisions involving billions of dollars on where to invest our media money … we need objective, validated measurement to be sure that we’re getting the viewability, audience, reach and frequency we pay for.”

Nielsen received hiatus agreements for digital ratings and local TV measures from the MRC, and “a hiatus for national TV wouldn’t necessarily mean that TV ratings would cease, but simply that they would lose the ‘gold standard’ backing they have as the industry’s choice.”

Business Insider reports that, “advertisers spend an estimated $61 billion in TV, but as viewers have shifted to online video platforms and streaming services, no single independent source has emerged to comparably measure those audiences.”

Before Nielsen asked for its accreditation to be suspended, “the Video Advertising Bureau, which represents large TV companies, in July called for the Media Rating Council to suspend” it. Measurement company TVSquared “applauded NBCU for taking the lead in driving new measurement standards.”

BI adds, however, that “stitching together a universal, cross-media measurement platform with buy-in from multiple TV companies, measurement firms, and ad buying agencies is unlikely to materialize quickly — not least because the industry would also likely push for any new system to undergo an MRC audit.”

Comscore Aims to Start MRC Review of Its TV Ratings Service Earlier Than Planned, Broadcasting & Cable, 8/24/21