By Bill Duggan
Nielsen, last week, formally announced its plans to eliminate the reporting of live-only local TV ratings to advertisers and its local station clients. Now, advertisers and local stations will only have overnight access to data for three different data streams: live program plus same day time-shifting of programming, live plus three day time-shifting, and live plus seven day time-shifting. Going forward, live-only data will only be available in custom reports, on a delayed basis.
Advertisers and agencies are disappointed. Nielsen has made it clear since this issue arose in 2009 that it could make three data streams available. Advertisers and agencies have been consistently adamant regarding the need for the live-only stream and have been willing to concede to the local stations the choice for the other two streams. But now all available streams for local TV ratings will be “plus” and therefore include time-shifting.
On the national level, the evolution from program ratings to average commercial ratings has been a positive step and C3 takes into consideration three day time-shifting. But it is important to point out that on the local level program ratings continue to be used. Therefore, all the “plus” streams do not take into consideration commercial skipping in DVR playback. As a result, local commercial viewing would clearly be overstated—some agencies estimate that this change will result in an instant 7 percent viewership boost to local TV stations. Overstated rating could then lead to overstated ad rates.
This situation is unfair and unfortunate. Again, there are three local ratings streams available. One of those streams should be live-only as the majority of agencies and advertisers have consistently told Nielsen as well as the local stations. Remember, it’s those advertising dollars that ultimately fund the local stations and well as Nielsen’s ratings services. Why has the opinion of advertisers and agencies been disregarded?