Nielsens National Ratings Accreditation Suspended by Media Rating Council

Nielsen’s decades-old track record of measuring the TV business was dealt a serious blow Wednesday after an industry organization decided to suspend its backing of the company’s national ratings service and also cancel an agreed-upon hiatus for its support of Nielsen’s local TV efforts as well.

The suspension is the latest salvo in a months-long joust between TV networks and the company that has long tabulated its viewership, and is the latest sign of the desperate needs of the TV industry to find a new yardstick as its audiences light out for new digital territory. The TV networks, eager to demonstrate to Madison Avenue that they still have clout with viewers who are moving to streaming outlets, alleged earlier this year that Nielsen changed protocols during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in an undercounting of the TV audience. While Nielsen has pledged to rectify the matter, the networks have not been satisfied.

In May, the MRC determined Nielsen likely undercounted TV audiences in February of this year, and Nielsen indicated last month it intended to seek a hiatus for its national ratings so it could work to upgrade them with less public scrutiny.

Nielsen’s desire for such a pause, however, has been denied. “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, which holds measurement organizations to standards on behalf of the media sector.  “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 decision will affect Nielsen ratings starting in mid-September. While the company’s measurement will still be able to be utilized, but they will. for an undetermined period of time, operate without a sort of “seal of approval” by the industry that uses it. And that could give advertisers and TV networks impetus to seek alternate means of counting their audiences. Already, NBCUniversal has said it is working to assemble a new coterie of groups that can tabulate viewers as they move from linear TV screens to streaming services and on-demand viewing.

Nielsen was not able to offer an immediate response.

One TV industry advocate portrayed the decision “as a loud change-or-die challenge” for Nielsen. “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.,” said Sena Cunningham, CEO of the VAB, an industry organization that represents the TV networks to Madison Avenue. “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.”


More to come….

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