How Nielsen Is Selling Its Game-Changing New Service to Ad Buyers

Is the industry ready for total audience measurement?

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Nielsen has spent two years putting together its new total audience measurement tool, but as the company prepares to cross the finish line, it still has a major hurdle to clear: getting the industry to move beyond the current C3 and C7 ratings metrics for national TV advertising. Last week, Nielsen got the ball rolling by assembling 25 top industry executives to discuss how the metrics should evolve. 

Nielsen gave Adweek a first look at the service this week—and we answered additional questions about it—but as the company begins rolling out the new data in December, showing for the first time how content is viewed across all platforms, networks won't be able to monetize the ratings information because advertising business is still conducted on C3 and C7 metrics. "These rules that were set in 2006 are starting to become unhinged because of the changing consumer behavior," said Megan Clarken, evp of global watch product leadership at Nielsen.

Among the major problems is that C3 and C7 ratings don't account for views outside of the initial seven-day window or any instances when the content contains different ad loads from the initial telecast. It also excludes most viewing on PCs, mobile devices, tablets, VOD and "connected TV" devices like Xbox, Apple TV and Roku.

"We're working with the industry to reestablish those rules," said Clarken. Last Thursday, Nielsen brought together 25 top industry executives—including buyers, sellers, agencies and media owners—to discuss the issue and start "to work together as a group to redefine the eligibility rules. They recognize the problem and looked at a couple of solutions that we put forward."

Now, they'll "spend more time with their research teams to try all those different solutions and ultimately come to a consensus, together," Clarken said. "The question is what are the buyers and sellers prepared to agree to, so what is the actual, definitive data point or multiple data points that they are going to agree to guarantee against? Today, that is the C3/C7 ratings for TV, and on the digital side, it's viewability, it's DAR [digital ad ratings]. The two sides need to come together." 

As for when those industry talks could be completed, Clarken said, "There's definitely an urgency, but then there's a reality as well, which is dictated by the [TV] seasons." One possibility would be that the industry spends much of the first part of 2016 "getting used to the data and building some rapport with it" before switching to the new metrics when the 2016-17 TV season kicks off next September.

"In the beginning, it may not be an either-or. It could be 'and,'" said Kelly Abcarian, Nielsen's svp, product leadership.

Regardless of how those industry meetings progress, Nielsen will begin rolling out the service to clients in December before going wide in the first quarter of 2016. "Those decisions need to be made, but we'll produce that data anyway," said Clarken.

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