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Nielsen’s Slow Shift to the Web Hinders TV Networks

22 May, 2013 By: Doug McPherson


NEW YORK – Media and ad execs are growing impatient with Nielsen, saying the measuring giant is dragging its feet in adding burgeoning Internet audiences to its figures, Bloomberg News reports.

Broadcast and cable networks like CBS and Viacom Inc.’s Nickelodeon aren’t getting paid for growing Web audiences because those viewers are practically invisible to Nielsen, Bloomberg says.

Some analysts say up 12 percent of viewers are being omitted in ratings at a time when the four major broadcasters have suffered a collective 7.2-percent drop in traditional TV viewers this season. Broadcasters are introducing services to meet viewers’ demands for shows on tablets and smartphones, and they want that audience counted.

“We don’t think that online viewing is being counted properly,” CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said in an earnings call in April. 

The four broadcasters showcased their 2013-14 schedules last week, and of those, only CBS has drawn more viewers this season, gaining 1.5 percent as of May 5, according Nielsen. ABC and NBC are down more than 6 percent, while Fox’s audience has declined 20 percent.

Ad spending on broadcast networks is projected to drop about 2 percent this year to $16.9 billion from $17.2 billion in 2012, when sales were padded by political spending and the London Olympics. Total TV advertising, including cable, will grow 2.8 percent to $63.9 billion, according to ZenithOptimedia, a research unit of Publicis Groupe.

One reason for the 2013 forecast is the growing number of viewers, not captured by Nielsen, who watch their favorite shows on tablets and smartphones, said Lyle Schwartz, managing partner at WPP’s media buying arm GroupM.

Internet video advertising, while still relatively small, will increase 41 percent to $4.14 billion this year, according to EMarketer Inc. That’s about 6 percent of the size of the traditional TV market, the researcher estimates.

“TV consumption as a whole is flat to slightly down in the last couple of years,” Schwartz told Bloomberg. “The viewers aren’t lost; they’re just watching it on other formats, namely online.”

Schwartz said he challenged Nielsen a few years ago to count the online audience and let clients “spend smarter.” He estimates that would add 3 percent to 12 percent to TV ratings. For its part, Nielsen says it’s “acutely aware” of the pressures of the media marketplace, and it has started measuring online audiences, including those using tablets and other systems.

Nielsen began tracking digital ad campaigns about 18 months ago and announced a pilot program last month to measure shows streamed from network websites, such as Fox and NBC. The ratings company is just starting to follow audiences using mobile apps, such as the Watch ABC service unveiled this week. Nielsen also announced last week it will start measuring ads on ABC shows playing on websites and mobile apps. Last month, CBS bought a stake in Syncbak, a company that helps local TV stations stream programs.
 


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