CBS and Nielsen End Standoff, Reach New Measurement Agreement

Multiyear deal covers national, local and digital ratings

The new deal means that CBS has now regained its access to Nielsen's current and historical data, which it hadn't had since Dec. 31. Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Sources: CBS, Nielsen, Getty Images
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CBS and Nielsen’s bitter face-off over a new measurement deal is finally over.

On Friday night, the companies reached a new deal for Nielsen national, digital and local audience measurement. In the  agreement, CBS Television Network, CBS Television Distribution, Showtime Networks, Smithsonian, Pop, CBS Sports Network and CBS’ 27 owned-and-operated local television stations will continue to use Nielsen’s Total Audience measurement services.

The multiyear agreement contains similar services to the last deal, according to a source.

“CBS is a longstanding leader in world-class video content,” said Nielsen CEO David Kenny in a statement. “We are thrilled to continue our long partnership with them as we innovate for the future.”

CBS acting CEO Joe Ianniello said in a statement, “We are very pleased with this new agreement we were able to achieve with Nielsen. It meets our strategic goals and will allow us to benefit from important advances in measurement as they are rolled out. CBS programming is perennially the most-watched content rated by Nielsen, and there is significant upside ahead as next-generation advertising continues to flourish.”

The two parties had been negotiating for six months but were unable to settle on a new agreement before their previous deal expired on Dec. 31, which complicated CBS’ ad buys.

That meant CBS no longer had access to current or historical data from the measurement company—the very metrics that much of its advertising inventory had been sold on. Buyers told Adweek last week that they were trying to determine how the dispute will affect their current ad inventory on the network.

Negotiations are being held up over pricing. CBS, whose last contract with Nielsen was worth around $100 million a year, said it wanted a deal that makes sense for the company and argued that Nielsen isn’t doing enough to measure the current platforms on which audiences consume content beyond linear TV.

Nielsen, however, countered that it has beefed up its measurement capabilities with new offerings like SVOD Content Ratings and Out-of-Home. On Monday, the measurement company added mobile and OTT measurement to its Total Ad Ratings metric. Additionally, through a new partnership with Google, YouTube advertisements are now part of Nielsen’s mobile Total Ad Ratings.

As talks dragged on, CBS said on Jan. 3 that it was at a “contractual impasse” with Nielsen, and that the company could end up working instead with measurement rival Comscore if a new deal could not be reached.

Still, most in the industry expected the two sides to reach a new deal, well before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3. Super Bowl ads do not have ratings guarantees, so CBS’ in-game ad revenue wouldn’t have been affected, but the network still wants to be able to brag about the ratings for the telecast, which it would not have been able to do without a new agreement in place.

At CBS’ Super Bowl LIII media day on Thursday, Ianniello and CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus declined to comment on their ratings speculations for the game, though Ianniello noted that “well over 100 million people tune in” to the Super Bowl.

CBS’ Super Bowl inventory is “over 90 percent sold” with three weeks to go, CBS ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross said Thursday.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.