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Nielsen Clients Decry Delays in ‘Fast’ Nationals

Feb 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The broadcast networks are steamed at Nielsen Media Research because the fast national ratings, for which they pay a premium, have increasingly become the not-so-fast nationals.
The prime-time data officially known as fast affiliate ratings has been late 27% of the time since the start of the 2007-08 season and 37% of the time—at least 13 days—since the first of the year, according to calculations by one network.
That percentage is almost as bad as the airlines’ late-arrival rate, one network research executive told TelevisionWeek.
Sometimes, the fast nationals arrive just an hour or so before the final nationals. The fast nationals for Monday, Feb. 4, were delivered to the network clients Wednesday morning—nearly a full day after their contractual Tuesday morning delivery and little more than an hour before the arrival of final nationals for Monday night, which were due Tuesday afternoon.
Nielsen routinely explains to clients that “processing delays” will make the fast nationals late.
Clients who participated in a conference call Feb. 1 run by Nielsen’s Catherine Herkovic, senior VP and managing director of national television client services, said the delays were attributable to three root causes:
– More challenges than expected collecting data from the Active/Passive Meters, which were developed over the course of more than a decade to measure digital viewing. The installation of A/P Meters began rolling out in 2005.
– Inadequate hardware and software for the increased volume and complexity of data being collected this TV season, including digital recorder playback data. Fast nationals include live viewing plus same-day playback data. Nielsen also began offering data on playback up to seven days after recording and commercial ratings. Nielsen said it is adding more servers, which it indicated could address about 25% of the problem within perhaps a couple of weeks.
– Higher than historical levels of human error, which was not defined.
The last reason touched particularly raw nerves with the clients, who have no other source from which to obtain the ratings and demographic data on which they base commercial rates because Nielsen has no competitors. The research company’s monopoly status has long been a source of friction between it and clients.
Nielsen told the conference call participants that it would take steps to try to reduce the “points of human intervention” in the process, one research executive said.
Clients wonder if the delays also could be due to too few personnel—or too many less-trained personnel—handling increasingly complicated core tasks as Nielsen rolls out ever-more-sophisticated products and services—such as its national TV/Internet Fusion database that would allow clients to focus on the relationship between consumers’ usage of both platforms.
Clients also wonder if the problems with the fast nationals delivery hint at other hidden problems in the final nationals or other data.
Such issues are sure to come up in conversations during Nielsen’s national client meeting on audience measurement Thursday and Friday at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.
Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus downplayed the human error question, characterizing its frequency as “not a lot” and saying it was “way down the list” of bugs in the system. He said error often takes place in the homes in the sample.
The root causes all contribute to stress on the company’s systems, he said, but, “We’re trying to get the data out as best we can and as fast as we can.”
Mr. Loftus, who is retiring from Nielsen at the end of February, added: “You can’t go backwards. You just have to keep getting this out and getting it right; and that’s what we will endeavor to do.”
However, not only are the clients helpless against the delays, they’re affected by the ripple effects, which include meetings that must be rescheduled because of missing data or meetings held with incomplete data.
Moreover, the delays seem to be increasing at a time when the networks’ development processes for next season normally would be in high gear but instead are idled by the Writers Guild of America strike that started Nov. 5.
Because the networks are on the cusp of canceling or dramatically retooling sales presentations and meetings and events that had been scheduled in conjunction with the annual May upfront ritual, the next three months are even more important than usual to networks and advertisers.

78 Comments

  1. From what I hear Mitchell Habib has laid off all of the good employees hence the result is a company which cannot perform. Individuals at Nielsen say that the IT dept has been outsourced by at least 75%. You get what you deserve.

  2. Good hopefully this will be the end of Nielsen!

  3. re: joe.
    you are exactly right. On top of that, the production departments that actually deliver the data have been stripped and outsourced. they’re working with at least 60% less people and there’s not anyone left who knows how to do the work.

  4. good luck with that indian company you contracted with so you could layoff all your good (= wellpaid) employees.
    your greed is going to come back to haunt you as a very bad decision to hire this cheap labor. the company was doing fine until all the remaining good employees jumped ship to find other jobs. even the ones hired by the indian company dont want to work for them and are leaving. even they were told there jobs are temporary once all the indians are trained. the indians will never be able to do the same work.

  5. Nielsons dug it’s own grave because of GREED!!
    Good luck with the cheap labor Indians. You get what you pay for, and you got a failing company.
    Just a matter of time, Mitchell!
    Someone should explain Carma to you!

  6. If you wanted to outsource the work, you should have gone with a company like EDS or CSC.
    Those companies know what they are doing, and would have improved the processes while taking on the work. They would not have whittled away all of the experience so quickly without having first ensured a transparent migration of the workload.
    This is what happens when managers with a Human Resources mentality attempt to perform tasks that should have been entrusted to authentic Information Technology professionals!
    You get what you pay for!
    And Nielsen’s new owners took the path of lowest pay and lowest quality!
    Shame, shame, shame!

  7. Awe…wassamatta?
    TV executives can’t get their ratings fast enough to make decisions about how to price their puffery and sell it to the highest bidding oilies, bankies, corpies, and their partisan cronies?
    Awe…poor little creepy network execs! You’ve been neglecting to tell the stories about the thousands of Americans who have had their jobs offshored for the past decade. Now you get to experience the tail end of the process first hand.
    You’ve covered the trails of the goonies who have been strangling this nation for years. Now you get to feel the sting that takes place when the lives of a work force are chewed up and spit out by the Human Resources garbage that is spawned from this crappy overpriced University System.
    Over-budgeted managers with clip boards do not get the data processing done on time!
    I.T. Technicians do.
    But you network creepies have ignored the plight of the countless I.T. professionals who have been totally screwed over by Corporate America since y2k went away and offshoring became the flavor of the day.
    Choke on it, exec-geeks!
    I hope you have a crappy day today, and that several of your fancy vacations this year are ruined as a result of this offshoring fiasco.

  8. Hatchet man Mitchell Habib is the individual who was specially sought out for the downsizing job. He’s outsourcing nearly all production work to TCS (Tata Consulting Services) and doesn’t care about the results because he’s only following the orders of the criminals who have bought out the company. Seriously. When you have owners with close ties to Henry Kissinger, who would be arrested on war crimes if he stepped foot in several countries, you’re GOING to have problems. Habib has stated that he doesn’t believe it takes any extended period of time to thoroughly learn anyone’s at the company and it can simply be handed off to India in a matter of weeks. He recently stated this in a public meeting/teleconference to nearly all Nielsen employees. Oh, and he also stated it only takes three years to become a doctor. This was not said as a joke, he was serious. It’s documented and has been recorded.

  9. As just about all of you have alluded to what’s really at the heart of Nielsen’s screwups has nothing to do with inadequate hardware and software. The delays have been going on for 20 weeks and if you count backwards 20 weeks from when this article was written that would take you to the last week of September of 2007. The last week of September 2007 is when Nielsen gave pink slips to a large number of employees and at the same time announced its partnership with TCS. Nielsen lost a large amount of subject matter experts due to the layoffs. Mitchell Habib was too focused on appeasing his cronies in India rather than delivering on-time, accurate data.
    You have TCS consultants trying to do the job of key subject matter experts. These subject matter experts have been on the job for years before Habib came in and let them go in favor of Indian consultants. Nielsen’s clients did not complain about delays prior to the mass layoffs.

  10. I can tell you, I just resigned from Nielsen. As a field tech installing their equipment. Watching the transition to Active Passive from day 1 has been a nightmare. If the clients knew what was really going on at Nielsen, they would Sue Nielsen’s pants off!!!
    The equipment is crap. The data is not accurrate. They have cut corners at every turn to try and save a dollar, which has killed what Nielsen used to do. Once the “New Executives” bought out Nielsen, everything went south. Turned this company into another Corrupt Corporate Sleaze Company.
    This was once a good company to work for. Now, it’s just triple the workload of the grunt employee to fill the pockets of a select few. Slave labor. They blew it big time on the equipment and keep spending money to try and fix it.. but it only gets worse. Then they put all the grief on the Field Tech to fix it or risk losing the job.. but the Field Tech didn’t design the equip. Any Field Tech will tell you that what Nielsen does now is fake.. the equip doesn’t work.
    The CEO Calhoun and his group has ruined this company. Put his own people in to make a small fortune and gotten rid of the others.. Now Out-sourcing jobs and has the town of Oldsmar after them. Talk of replacing the Field Tech with a Geek Squad Contractor. It used to take 10 weeks to train someone, plus about 6 months in the field to do the job. Now they just want to send in a Geek Squad guy to people’s homes and “forget about it”

  11. Mitchell is out of control and the American businesses just for being fricken greety will lose more then they can afford. Tata has invaded the United States! Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian information technology company, to open a new 1,000-person office in Cincinnati, said Tata spokesman Mike McCabe.
    Tata, which announced plans for the new office in March, has had sales offices in the United States for years, but the Ohio delivery center will be the company’s first U.S. office to house consultants that do the company’s nuts-and-bolts work.
    Everywhere Mitchell Habib goes he screws the American’s so that he can help his own. Read the story below.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Economy/story?id=5492084&page=1

  12. Mitchell is a traitor to the United States of America. He has destoyed families and ruined companies.
    They should keep GitMo prison in Cuba open just for him.

  13. It’s going to get a lot worse because another 100 or so who were left who knew how to make the mainframe do its job are being laid off effective 27 Feb – an entire division is going. The Indian consultants are in a panic…

  14. The Nielsen Company manipulates / massages the numbers and does not keep up with technology, Nielsen hires poorly trained technicans to maintain the equipment. The equipment only works properly approximately 50% of the time. The chosen households are paid to participate in the sample. The technicans are poorly paid and are rarely updated with training in the industry.

  15. You know any company that needs to bring Habib on-board is in some serious financial sh1t. I love hearing Habib’s latest antics. Train your Indian replacement who you are losing your job to, in a few weeks or you lose your severance. Mitchell how about I give you a 15 minute lesson on how to do plumbing and have you redo your house. And I’m sure Nelsons departing who are training there replacements are getting the highest quality “education” from the betrayed staff who probably spent hard years to build a system to meet there clients needs. WHAT A PLAN! Nielson management needs to get it’s head examined for bringing on board a crackpot like Habib. My guess is with the company making decisions like that, its probably so mismanaged they felt it was the only option to save any scrap of money they can. My advice avoid dealing with Nielson!

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