Nielsen Modifies Its Total Content Ratings Rollout, With ‘Limited’ Release on March 1

Publishers will only be able to share their own data publicly

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One month after NBCUniversal asked Nielsen to put the brakes on its Total Content Ratings (TCR) rollout, the company has decided to modify its plans for making the new metric publicly available.

Now, instead of the release schedule it announced in September, in which all metrics would be available to all Nielsen clients—including all networks, analysts and press—on March 1, TCR will now have a “limited commercial release” on that day, said Jessica Hogue, svp product leadership, Nielsen.

Beginning on the date, publishers can choose to share their own data externally, with media, agencies or for other business purposes, but will not be able to release data from competitors. “When a publisher shares that information, we will make the same information available to agencies,” said Hogue. “It will be led by our media clients: for those that are ready and comfortable and want to be able to use the data, we want to support them to be able to do that.”

Nielsen announced the changes after presenting them during today’s senior research council meeting with media and agency clients.

“For us, this was about finding a solution that works for all our media clients,” said Hogue.

Nielsen no longer has a time frame for when all Total Content Ratings data will be publicly released. “We’re going to revisit and reassess at a later date,” said Hogue.

Last month, Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, sounded the alarm about TCR by writing a letter to Nielsen execs asking them to put the breaks on the impending rollout. Yaccarino said she and her company have “deep concerns” about Nielsen’s total content ratings product, which she claimed is “not ready for release” and would do “more harm than good” in its current form.

Nielsen reaffirmed its support at the time for TCR and its rollout schedule, but earlier this month, the company said it was rethinking its strategy at the behest of its TV network clients and had “modified the way in which we will be sharing data during the agency evaluation period which begins in January.”

Yaccarino’s concerns were echoed by the broadcast network presidents, who told Adweek that as much as the industry is eager for a metric that will show how much their content is viewed on all platforms, they wanted Nielsen to get things “right” and delay the TCR release. “This is one of those things where, if it comes out and it’s a disaster, there’s no rolling it back,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey.

Nielsen responded by telling Adweek, “There are no underlying methodological issues with Total Content Ratings (TCR) which is part of Nielsen’s Total Audience framework. We take data quality and validation seriously and have conducted extensive evaluation with clients who have implemented measurement.”

When Nielsen first unveiled its total audience measurement plans in the fall of 2015, executives had hoped to roll it out in time for last year’s upfront presentations, but implementation has proven to be a more difficult and time-consuming process than they had anticipated.

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