Audience Insights: 5 Things to Know About What’s Happening with Measuring Who’s Watching

In what can seem like eons ago in the ever-evolving world of television advertising, our October Audience Insights article explored the immediate aftermath of Nielsen’s loss of MRC accreditation for its local TV measurement services. Over the subsequent months, Nielsen moved forward with plans to integrate broadband-only (BBO) homes into local measurement. And the measurement giant has remained firmly entrenched in the industry news cycle – generating both positive (e.g., announcement of Nielsen ONE Alpha cross-platform measurement) and negative (e.g., admission of undercounted out-of-home viewership) national press.

At the same time, NBC Universal has emerged as a leading voice in addressing the question that undoubtedly sits top of mind for the top minds in advertising: “Where do we go from here?” As 2022 kicks into high gear, the advertising world continues to ponder how and when TV measurement will catch up with a viewing experience that is not too far off from the dream media mogul “Weird” Al Yankovic envisioned in the mid-1980s:

“I got a satellite dish on the trunk of my car

So I can watch MTV while I drive”

Regardless of how consumers access their TV content, the ability for that viewership to be measured and counted accurately is critical to media companies and marketers alike – which is why the topic continues to make headlines. As part of our ongoing efforts to provide perspective on TV measurement developments, here’s a look at five headlines to bring you up to speed on recent happenings:

1. Nielsen lost accreditation, but not necessarily acceptance in the near term.

To say that differently, despite all the frustration surrounding Nielsen’s metered panels and underreporting of viewership throughout the pandemic, Nielsen numbers continue to be the dominant currency on which the vast majority of TV advertising is transacted. For now, that is not just the local market reality, either. Nationally, Omnicom Media Group’s Kelly Metz told last week’s CIMM Converged TV Measurement & Data Summit that “the Nielsen GRP is alive and well” for this year’s network upfront negotiations with advertisers. Indeed, Digiday quotes an unnamed agency executive who estimates that 90% of this year’s national upfront dollars are likely to be rooted in Nielsen data. According to that same source, though, the difference this year is that “30% to 40%” of national advertisers may end up trialing data from alternate measurement providers to get a secondary or parallel set of metrics.

2. Comscore has responded by ramping up accreditation efforts.

For many local ad buyers and sellers, last year’s MRC announcement regarding Nielsen’s loss of accreditation focused new attention on the other established player in the TV measurement space. Comscore, though, missed out on the opportunity to maximize potential gains in marketplace adoption because – like Nielsen – its local TV offerings are not currently accredited. To its credit, Comscore hopes to change that in the months ahead. According to Broadcasting + Cable, “Comscore’s national and local TV measurement products are currently in the accreditation process and are undergoing an MRC audit.” (Editor’s note: Nielsen also is reported to have reengaged with the MRC to pursue reaccreditation.)

3. Both Comscore and Nielsen are touting cross-platform measurement solutions.

As they address MRC accreditation considerations for their respective TV measurement services, Comscore and Nielsen also have their corporate eyes on a potentially bigger prize – the measurement of viewership across multiple screens and devices. In early 2022, Comscore unveiled Comscore Everywhere, a service it calls “a true single-source unified cross-platform measurement solution” that will seamlessly capture viewing across traditional linear TV, streaming, and digital platforms. Nielsen, meanwhile, has generated a decent amount of publicity with the launch of its first foray into cross-platform measurement, Nielsen ONE Alpha. The Nielsen offering, according to Radio & Television Business Report, introduces what the company calls “the first cross-platform measurement system of its kind that offers both comparability and audience deduplication across all screens.” Both national services will continue to develop throughout 2022, but neither has an established timeline for extension into local market measurement.

4. NBCU has become a leading advocate for a multi-currency marketplace.

Also at the national level, NBC Universal has generated a significant amount of banter on two fronts. First, under the direction of EVP and former Nielsen executive Kelly Abcarian, NBCU sent out an RFP to multiple measurement providers, seeking input on current capabilities and anticipated innovations. The result is a publicly released Measurement Framework document examining eight companies, including Comscore and Nielsen, that NBCU believes could be viable contenders in a multi-currency environment. Second, related to that work, NBCU engaged in a trial with another company from the list, iSpot.tv, to provide cross-platform metrics during the recently completed Winter Olympics. The trial included NBC’s self-described “Super Gold Sunday” that featured both Olympics and Super Bowl coverage on the same day.

5. While the national picture comes into view, the two incumbents still dominate local TV.

Notwithstanding developments that will continue to come into focus throughout 2022 on the national scene, the realities of multi-platform measurement and multi-currency transactions will take significantly longer to materialize in a meaningful way for local markets. From the Cox Media perspective, that means we will continue to monitor industry progress on these larger initiatives, while also working with Comscore and Nielsen on more near-term improvements to their existing local TV measurement services. In parallel, we also will examine opportunities to leverage additional data sources and metrics to enhance audience-based planning and optimization capabilities.

As we go, we hope to avoid being what comedian Steven Wright called a peripheral visionary. “I could see the future,” Wright once said, “but only way off to the side.”

Follow us here for more updates, and feel free to contact Cox Media with any questions!

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About the Author

David Gustafson

As Cox Media’s Director of Linear & Audience Research, David plays a key role in the company’s usage and interpretation of TV audience data. With more than two decades of industry experience, David currently is a member of the Nielsen Local Policy Guidelines Committee (PGC) and VAB Measurement Innovation Task Force, as well as client advisor to Comscore. Known as “The Professor,” David’s articles combine his passion for writing with a penchant for concisely explaining complex topics.

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