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No Consensus on Nielsen Ratings Expansion Plan

8 Jul, 2015 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – Broadcast and cable networks have voted to ask Nielsen to delay changing its TV ratings methods but they couldn’t reach a consensus on a single recommendation. The vote was organized by the newly anointed Video Advertising Bureau (VAB, formerly the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau). The VAB did agree to continue monitoring the situation.

Nielsen has said it intends to implement the change this fall. That change, which is part of Nielsen’s “NPX,” or National Panel Expansion plan, includes a controversial move to expand part of its ratings sample by mathematically modeling viewing behavior to represent the viewing of people not participating in the sample.

Nielsen executives say the change is necessary because of the rapid fragmentation of TV – and ultimately video – viewing.

Analysts say the impact could be profound, causing some networks to increase or lose share based on the mathematical shifts. MediaPost News reports that because advertising budgets generally correlate to audience shares, those shifts could create substantial disruption in advertising budgets and so-called “makegoods” – commercial time given as compensation to advertisers for failing to meet their audience guarantees.

The VAB vote included four recommendations to Nielsen:

  1. Do nothing and leave the sample expansion launch in place for this September
  2. Delay it until January 2016
  3. Delay it until September 2016
  4. Scrap the sample expansion plan altogether

Without a consensus, the group effectively voted for option one because as one VAB member said: “Nielsen plans to move forward come hell or high water.”

Some believe an upcoming vote from the national television committee of industry self-regulatory ratings watchdog, the Media Rating Council, could have more of an impact. MRC has been evaluating Nielsen and may vote to decide whether or not to accredit Nielsen’s national TV ratings.

Even though the MRC has no regulatory weight, its accreditation is recognized as an important stamp of industry approval on the soundness of doing business based on ratings methods audited by the council.

Some have said MRC may not be able to complete its audit of Nielsen before the new fall TV season, which would make this the first TV season with unaccredited ratings since the MRC was created in the 1960s.

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