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Early Nielsen Commercial Data Will Be Labeled Experimental

Sep 21, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Nielsen Media Research will label the first batch of average commercial minute ratings it releases as experimental, according to executives who attended a meeting Thursday morning to discuss Nielsen’s plan among ad buyers and network executives.

Cable network executives hope the label will discourage ad buyers from using the data as a currency for buying ads until several bugs Nielsen’s data-generation method are worked out.

Nielsen executives attended the meeting. A spokesman for the ratings service said he didn’t think anything was agreed to at the meeting. “There was not a consensus,” he said.

He said Nielsen will still begin reporting the average of the ratings of commercial minutes within each program in the middle of November, but that the industry needs to examine and make decision on several issues. “Can it be delayed? Of course. Will it change? Most definitely. Will it be labeled? You bet,” the Nielsen spokesman said.

The broadcast networks and media buyer Mediaedge:cia over the summer asked Nielsen to produce average commercial minute ratings as a way to give advertisers a truer picture of the number of viewers watching their commercials. Some studies have shown that shows on broadcast retain more of their viewers during commercial breaks than shows on cable do.

Commercial ratings could also include viewers who watch shows on a delayed basis using digital video recorders. During the last upfront presentations, ads were bought based on “live” viewing only, which the networks believe costs them a percentage of their total audience.

Cable networks say they have found many examples in which the Nielsen system does not accurately capture commercials. For example, Nielsen includes local commercial breaks for cable, but not for broadcast. Nielsen also has issues in producing ratings for syndicated shows, particularly those with double runs.

Some people attending the meeting wanted Nielsen to produce the data and distribute it, then let the industry examine the data to get a look at how serious the issues are, said Sean Cunningham, president of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau. Others in the room, including the ad agencies and cable networks, didn’t want Nielsen to produce data “that we know is going to flawed” and would need to be corrected and re-analyzed.

“That’s the fork in the road,” Mr. Cunningham said. “We know, certainly for cable, [producing the data with the systems in place now] is not in the best interest of the industry.”