Nielsen canceled the meeting to discuss lifting the suspension of support for national ratings

The TV industry’s favorite benchmark remains broken — at least for now.

Nielsen’s long-used national TV ratings have yet to, and probably will not, win back industry support. According to three people familiar with the matter, the metering giant asked for the cancellation of a meeting scheduled for Monday to demonstrate its efforts to improve its TV viewership counting ability.

Nielsen on Nov. 9 asked to postpone a Nov. 14 meeting of the Media Rating Council’s review committee, two of those people say. MRC, an industry watchdog, commits measurement organizations to standards on behalf of the media sector. Nielsen was asked to explain how it had improved its television audience measurement technology. MRC suspended its accreditation for Nielsen’s national ratings in September 2021, citing findings showing that Nielsen had undercounted viewers during the coronavirus pandemic due to monitoring gaps in its technology. A notice to television broadcasters regarding the postponed committee meeting said Nielsen had demonstrated “material non-compliance,” two of those people say.

“It is deeply disappointing that someone has shared a confidential document that is only one side of the story of our ongoing involvement in Nielsen’s national television service,” David Gunzerath, senior vice president and associate director of the MRC, said in a statement aired Saturday. “While it is true that the existing suspension of MRC accreditation remains in place at this time, we also believe that Nielsen has made significant progress on most of the issues that led to this suspension and MRC continues to actively work with Nielsen together on a path to address the remaining issues so that consideration of reinstating accreditation for the national television service can be made relatively soon.”

A Nielsen spokeswoman referred an inquiry to the MRC. A spokesman for the MRC could not comment on whether Nielsen had asked to postpone or cancel a November 14 meeting, or on communications between the MRC committee and its members. The status of Nielsen’s suspension was previously reported by Ad Age.

According to a person familiar with the matter, they are the results of an audit that Ernst & Young submitted to an MRC committee tasked with managing the industry’s relationship with Nielsen. While the investigation found that Nielsen had improved its processes over the past few months, it also pointed to several things the metering company still needed to fix.

The revelation of the canceled meeting is the latest salvo in a months-long tussle between TV broadcasters and the company that has long tabulated its viewership figures, and is the latest sign of the television industry’s desperate need to find a new source to measure viewers heading off into digital territory. The TV networks, keen to show Madison Avenue they still have an impact on viewers who switch to streaming outlets, claimed in 2021 that Nielsen changed protocols during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in TV audience undercounting .

While Nielsen has pledged to rectify the matter, the networks weren’t happy. In fact, many of them began working with a range of measurement novices, including iSpot, Comscore, and VideoAmp, and made deals in the industry’s recent upfront market, which included benchmarks based on these companies’ results. NBCUniversal, for example, said in June that more than 40% of its upfront deals were based on factors other than traditional age and gender parameters, compared with about 20% last year.

Despite the suspension in place, Nielsen has begun forging metering agreements with a variety of the networks’ digital competitors. In recent weeks, Nielsen has unveiled pacts to monitor Alphabet’s YouTube TV audience; Netflix’s new ad-supported subscription tier; and Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football.” In March, Nielsen agreed to be taken private by a group led by Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation, a subsidiary of activist fund Elliott Investment Management LP, which has campaigned for a sale of Nielsen, and Brookfield Business Partners LP, which has called for an all -$16 billion cash deal.

Just as Nielsen often quarrels with its TV partners over the number of viewers, it has fallen out with Amazon over how many people are watching the e-commerce giant’s new streaming version of its NFL Thursday games. Nielsen’s viewership is lower than the outlet’s – a difference in the chart that affects how much advertisers are willing to pay to appear next to the pigskin storefront. Nielsen canceled the meeting to discuss lifting the suspension of support for national ratings

Charles Jones

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