Huge Dispute With Millions of Dollars Hanging in the Balance: Media Agencies Furious at Changes TV Stations and Nielsen Want to Make in Local TV Measurement

Nov 19, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) has sent a blistering letter to Nielsen Media Research decrying a planned change in the way Nielsen will measure local TV measurement, Advertising Age reports.

The dispute revolves around whether digital video recorder usage should be measured. Presently, in local TV measurement by Nielsen, many agencies base much of their price negotiation on the live TV viewing metric. This is the metric Nielsen says it will be eliminating. In the national TV ratings, by contrast, the standard has become C3, which is live viewing plus 3-days of watching shows (and commercials) recorded on DVRs.

Nielsen is planning to change its local measurement to live viewing plus same day viewing of DVRs. This move is also backed by local TV stations, since it will increase the ratings of most shows.

According to the Ad Age article, " ‘If we went from live to live-plus-same-day, which is what Nielsen is proposing to replace the live stream with in prime time, [for] the first couple of weeks of the season, the ratings would go up about 13%. But we know of that 13%, 60% to 70% of it is time-skipped,’ said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at [media agency holding company] GroupM. ‘Our clients would be paying for program exposures that are not generating commercial exposure.’"

Scanzoni said "further action against Nielsen could be possible," according to the report.

In the letter to Nielsen, which was signed by Marc Goldstein, who is the president and North American CEO of GroupM and the chair of the 4A’s Media Policy Committee, it said, in part,
"Nielsen can publish whatever new forms of data it desires. However, you must restore the "live" stream which you have elected to eliminate as a buying option for the media community. We ask that you get out of the way of the negotiating process and let buyers and sellers operate on a free market basis."

The full letter is reproduced in the Ad Age article.

–Chuck Ross



  1. This will be a boon for those who advocate product placement advertising. The advent of the DVR has been killing advertisment viewing.
    For too long ad agency’s have wanted their clients to believe only 30 and 60 second advertisments could sell product on TV.
    Of course there will be a fight. Agencies don’t make much money from product placement campaigns. They generate most revenue from creating ad campaigns – 100 percent margins in many cases. Placing those ads in programs for clients only delivers a 15 percent markup. Where do you think they would prefer to direct a clients money?

  2. Your article mis-states the facts—Nielsen’s local measurement is NOT currently restricted to Live-Only. They report Live-Only, Live+3 Days and Live+7 Days. In fact, the current “industry standard” is the Live+7 Day data stream. It is some of the ad agencies that have adopted the Live-Only data stream as “their standard,” which totally dismisses the portion of the DVR time-shifted audience that is reported to not skip through commercials, but to actually watch commercials within the recorded programs.
    The TV stations’ position is that this “dismissed” commercial viewing has value, and should be included in the negotiated ratings.
    Fact is, the stations’ position is a more than fair compromise, compared with the “live-only” agencies’ position that gives no credit to this commercial viewing, despite the fact that they have acknowledged that it does exist and is measured. The stations are simply asking that they be fairly compensated for audience value that some agencies have been getting as a bonus.

  3. Thanks, Fred. We’ve changed our summary to reflect that the primary objection by the 4A’s is the elimination of the live only metric, not whether Nielsen should be providing other metrics as well.

    Chuck Ross

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