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Nielsen Updates Its TV Currency To Measure Addressable Ads

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Addressable TV advertising promises to deliver unique ads on a household-by-household or even individualized basis.

The problem, however, is that the Nielsen ratings currency off which linear TV is transacted, isn’t designed to accommodate all that variability. And not being able to use the Nielsen rating on addressable ads keeps a lot of advertisers from buying in.

So for the first time ever, Nielsen is adding smart TV and set-top box data to inform its TV ratings currency, the company said Tuesday. New sources of data from providers DISH, DirecTV and smart TV manufacturer VIZIO will add to Nielsen’s traditional panel data, said Scott Brown, GM of audience measurement at Nielsen.

“No longer will the panel be the only source of data,” Brown said.

While DISH, DirecTV and VIZIO encompass only a portion of the addressable households in the United States, Nielsen is working to partner with more data owners.

“I can’t comment on specific providers, but clearly we view this as the first wave of partnerships,” Brown said. “I would expect to hear more from Nielsen in the future because we are talking to basically everybody.”


Nielsen already has measurement relationships with some of the biggest OTT providers. It measures Amazon Prime Video, for instance, and works within Roku’s Measurement Partner Program. And both YouTube TV and Hulu are part of Nielsen’s TV ratings. The holy grail would be to incorporate the data from these different providers into Nielsen’s ratings currency.

Aside from incorporating more data sources, Nielsen still has a lot of work ahead in incorporating addressability into its currency. Most importantly, it needs to demonstrate to buyers and sellers how its methodology credits exposures to a targeted ad, and integrates those measured impressions within the remaining linear ads in a campaign.

Nielsen knows this, and says that in 2021 it will reveal how base ratings look with the addition of smart TV and set-top box data. “Next year, we’ll show what the audience looks like when we bring these data sets in,” Brown said. Then, the updated currency will have to go through an audit from the Media Ratings Council.

“This is one of those rare instances where networks, agencies and advertisers are excited about the same thing,” Brown said. “The Nielsen currency has always had this fundamental premise we’re now changing, which is that in order to get credit, everyone sees the same ads. That’s what the $70 billion market in the US is predicated on.”

And the ultimate goal for Nielsen is to go beyond measuring at the household level to measure specific audiences, using its panel data as the basis for models that predict which individual is watching a show at a given time.

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