Nielsen to include streaming TV in ratings system

The logo of Nielsen Holdings, Plc. (Logo: Nielsen/Graphic: The Desk)

Nielsen on Tuesday said it intends to re-launch its television ratings system in a way that will incorporate viewership across streaming TV services and devices.

The re-launch is part of a broader product called Nielsen One that will become available to advertisers, media planners and other clients by the Fall 2024 television season. Some elements of Nielsen One will be rolled out to television stations and networks two years earlier.

“With Nielsen One, we are delivering a single, comparable metric for TV and digital that will provide video consumption across all platforms, services and devices,” Karthik Rao, the chief operating officer of Nielsen, said in a press release. “For media buyers and sellers, this means better monetizing their assets and maximizing their investments.”

The company said Nielsen One represents “a major milestone for Nielsen as we put our cross-media vision into motion.”

“We’ve made significant enhancements over the last year to turbo-charge the tech and data science required to make an industry-wide, cross-media solution a reality,” Rao said.

The announcement comes less than a month after Nielsen executives said the company would move away from measuring the number of viewers as an aggregate figure across all television commercials and instead measure each spot individually.

Nielsen’s clients have been demanding greater flexibility in its television ratings and advertising measurements as media companies shift focus away from traditional forms of broadcasting — over the air, cable and satellite — toward newer streaming options.

On Tuesday, Nielsen said it’s responding to these demands by offering Nielsen One, which will measure streaming television alongside traditional broadcast services.

The move marks a transformational shift in how Nielsen has collected and reported viewership data in the past, and the company’s chief executive said it will take some time for Nielsen and other companies to fully adapt to its new way of measuring audiences.

“I don’t think we can make a change of this magnitude that affects over a $100 billion of trading without giving the market notice and the chance to compare data and workflows,” David Kenny, the chief executive of Nielsen, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week.

Still, come 2024, Nielsen One will be the new way of doing things.

“2024 is when we take away the old stuff and just do it in this new way,” Kenny said.

The company has reached agreements with providers of Internet-connected set-top boxes and manufacturers of smart TVs to ensure audience data can be analyzed and collected, the Journal said, citing a Nielsen partner executive.

“This was a move that had to be made because the industry is at a breaking point in terms of its ability to function in this new environment that we live in,” Adam Garber, the global chief media officer for Essence, told the Journal, who added that Nielsen’s fractured measurement tools that collected and reported data from traditional and digital sources separately “doesn’t work.”

The Journal said Nielsen’s end goal is to offer television broadcasters and advertisers alike the ability to compare a commercial spot’s viewership and effectiveness across all forms of media, whether it’s a pre-roll ad placed before a YouTube video or a regular ad that runs during an hour-long prime-time show.

Some media companies say they want to learn more about Nielsen One before they are willing to commit to the service. The Journal attempted to contact Comcast, ViacomCBS, Roku, Amazon and Facebook for comment, but all declined, the newspaper’s story said.

But one executive who heads an advocacy group pushing for better media and audience measurement tools said networks and advertisers alike will want to compare different sets of data to ensure Nielsen One will work from a business standpoint.

“It’s not just a simple measurement thing; it changes all the rates you pay for everything,” Jane Clarke, the head of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement.

That data may also be incomplete if other partners are not willing to play ball: It would require tech services like Google (which owns YouTube) and Facebook (which owns Instagram and operates a video service called Facebook Watch) to provide viewership data that those companies have typically held close to the chest.

Some of those companies may ultimately find a partner in Nielsen, especially as regulators begin to scrutinize their own data and advertisement services from the perspective that they’re too big and wield too much influence in the online media space. And Nielsen would be more than happy to have them on board.

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