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Nexstar calls Nielsen measuring tools ‘inadequate,’ seeks alternative

The major cities where Nexstar Media Group owns or operates one or more local television stations. (Courtesy image)
The major cities where Nexstar Media Group owns or operates one or more local television stations. (Courtesy image)

The largest owner of local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC broadcast stations is done with Nielsen.

On Monday, Nexstar Media Group issued a press release announcing it was issuing an “open request for proposals” that is intended to help it find a “next-generation audience measurement partner” that will help it better understand the people who are viewing its on-air and digital products.

“We believe current methods of audience measurement inadequately reflect our national reach and the effectiveness of the local activation we deliver to advertisers and marketers,” Michael Strober, Nexstar’s chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “We need to accelerate the pace of innovation in cross-platform measurement not just with national content, but with the content generated in every one of our local markets. We also must ensure that the best data is operational across the company.”

Like other broadcasters, Nexstar currently utilizes analytic tools offered by Nielsen, whose overnight and daily ratings are something of the gold standard in television audience measurement.

Over the last few years, complaints about Nielsen and its techniques have grown louder among media firms, with some saying the tools fall short of adequately measuring audiences who have shifted over to streaming and other digital products.

Nexstar joins the chorus of broadcasters who have affirmed their love-hate relationship with Nielsen. Since late last year, Nexstar has used Nielsen ratings to prove its cable upstart NewsNation is the “fastest-growing national cable news network,” though Nielsen ratings show it still lags behind CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and Newsmax.

Nexstar says it is already working with some Nielsen alternatives, including iSpot and VideoAmp, to help it “deliver linear and streaming audience data generated across its media platforms.” It also appointed Hanna Gryncwajg to serve as its vice president of measurement innovation; Gryncwajg will be tasked with overseeing the process of selecting a new measurement vendor for the company.

“Our work with several new measurement partners has demonstrated the benefit of fresh thinking and the need for a much more expansive set of measurement capabilities across our entire footprint,” Gryncwajg affirmed on Monday. “We are looking for innovations and roadmaps that can deliver game-changing improvements to help us maximize the effectiveness of Nexstar’s portfolio for advertisers across the whole funnel – from awareness to conversion and purchase. We need to measure what matters most, and we need to do that across all of our endpoints with speed and precision.”

Whatever measurement tools Nexstar decides to use could have an immediate impact on how much the company charges for its local and national television advertising. Nexstar’s decision to seek an alternative currency now comes as its local and national ad sales teams gear up for another political advertising cycle, when revenue from that sector tends to be at its highest.

The tools could also help Nexstar justify charging cable, satellite and streaming TV companies higher rates for its local TV stations and NewsNation — if the tools deliver the type of data that Nexstar can spin into an argument for charging platforms more to carry their channels.

Currently, Nexstar is engaged in several disputes over carriage of its stations: Late last year, Dish Network pulled several channels licensed to Mission Broadcasting, which Nexstar operates. Last month, DirecTV and cable operator Hawaiian Telcom were forced to black out Nexstar-owned local stations after the broadcaster demanded higher fees.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).