Nielsen Ratings Controversy Still ‘Live’

Disappointed with Nielsen’s decision to eliminate live ratings from its local market reports, the American Association of Advertising Agencies is, in the words of Horizon Media’s Bill Koenigsberg, “taking it to the streets.” Koenigsberg—the president, CEO and founder of Horizon Media and new chairman of the 4As Media Policy Committee—said agencies had no choice but to suggest new business practices in light of Nielsen’s decision.

Nielsen eliminated the live metric and replaced it with live-plus-same-day on April 1, but not without a lot of controversy in the months leading up to the move. The 4As, among others in the agency community, asked Nielsen to reconsider its decision, but in the end, TV stations won out. Live data is available—but only in custom reports.

According to the 4As Media Policy Committee and the Local TV and Radio Committee, availability of live data is limited and not actionable. The Custom Tool Box does not provide live ratings at the program level and the data cannot be imported into the buying systems.

To compensate, the 4As suggested that the ad community estimate local delivery differently by adjusting down the live-plus-same-day ratings on the front end or on the back end, during the posting process.

“What the committees recommended will dramatically effect the local stations,” Koenigsberg said. “Hopefully the local stations will put press on Nielsen.”

Nielsen and stations have argued that live-plus-same-day is a good surrogate for the network TV’s C3 rating, and a better reflection of viewing habits. But agencies say live-plus-same-day overstates audiences that have skipped commercials.

“It’s a good surrogate, but it’s not the true delivery data,” Koenigsberg said.