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Nielsen will include Amazon’s own ratings for ‘Thursday Night Football’

Nielsen has agreed to incorporate first-party data from Amazon in its television ratings for “Thursday Night Football” games this year, according to a report.

The move is the first time Nielsen has allowed a third-party company to include its own data in its ratings reports, and comes as Nielsen has faced criticism from broadcast and cable networks over allegations that the independent data measurement firm underreports audience segments.

“We are making modifications for live-streaming measurement to more accurately reflect the growing impact of streaming and first-party data,” a Nielsen spokesperson said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the matter on Wednesday.

Historically, Nielsen has relied on data collected from a small sample of television viewers to illustrate broader trends in the television landscape. That data is used for ratings reports, which are relied upon by advertisers in terms of their marketing budgets.

Streaming services typically integrate their own analytics tools — something broadcasters have started doing as they push forward with their online-based services — and data culled from direct sources has been at odds with Nielsen’s measurement tools for some time.

Last season, Amazon complained that its own data showed viewership was around 18 percent higher for Thursday Night Football games than what Nielsen claimed. Amazon and the National Football League (NFL) lobbied Nielsen to include more first-party data in its ratings reports, the Journal said, citing unnamed sources.

“We are actively working with and support Nielsen and all of our broadcast partners in their efforts to improve the accuracy of media viewership and fully capture the true size of our audiences,” a spokesperson for the NFL said.

Already, some are questioning Amazon’s methods and criticizing Nielsen’s willingness to incorporate their data. Sean Cunningham, the CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau, told the Journal that Amazon’s own data shows higher household and out-of-home viewership compared to games aired on CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC.

“We have multiple entities who are shouting at Nielsen and have been for months about this,” Cunningham warned. “This is an incredibly dangerous precedent.”

Amazon stands by its data, saying it has “strong confidence” in how it measures both in-home and out-of-home viewing of Thursday Night Football games.

Historically, Thursday football games have been the lowest-rated across television, even though the football week begins on that day. In the past, broadcasters have griped about weak match-ups relegated to Thursday evenings, including low-score games and blowouts.

The move ultimately led Fox to abandon its bid for Thursday evening football games, paving the way for Amazon’s Prime Video to stream the games on an exclusive basis. That contract took effect last year. Local TV stations in the markets of each team playing broadcast the games over-the-air.

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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).