Here’s What Nielsen Vet Kelly Abcarian Brings To NBCU’s Measurement Ambitions

Kelly Abcarian spent 16 years at Nielsen, most recently heading up the measurement company’s advanced video advertising product.

Now she moves to NBCU, in the newly-created role of EVP of measurement and impact, to build out the broadcaster’s in-house measuring capabilities. It’s a deceptively large purview.

Abcarian will oversee a ton of measurement-related initiatives that NBCU hopes to offer advertisers, including the ability to measure across the sales funnel and across platforms. The latter agenda is particularly important given NBCU’s investment in its streaming platform Peacock and other OTT platforms.

And while all these initiatives will include the usual impression-based measurement, Abcarian will also help further NBCU’s ability to prove ROI and the impact sales have on advertising. The company has already made forays into proving business results.

Finally, Abcarian will work to unite the data fueling NBCU’s proprietary identifier, called the Universal ID, with measurement products.

So, that’s a lot. But given all the changes in the media world, from how people are identified online, to privacy legislation, to streaming TV adoption, it’s easy to see why NBCU has given Abcarian an ambitious agenda.     

“We’re excited that Kelly’s up to this task, and that’s why she’s on this team,” said NBCU President and Chief Business Officer Krishan Bhatia, whom Abcarian reports to.

Abcarian was a key architect of many of Nielsen’s advanced measurement tools, and she recalls how she worked to build solutions that moved away from the traditional age standard, to advanced demographics and more sophisticated measurement services.

“Nielsen had that broad marketplace, and an understanding of the innovations that were happening, and how measurement can really improve both the content owners and the advertisers,” Abcarian said.

She added: “I’m so excited to be joining NBCU at this time, when they’re making massive investments in data.”

Meanwhile, Nielsen’s investment in advanced video advertising ended in early March, when it unloaded the business to Roku and, according to Variety, sent its 100 employees including Abcarian to the OTT provider.

From Nielsen to NBCU

But now, Abcarian is at NBCU, which has harped at Nielsen to speed up its development of tools to measure viewership in the new media landscape. Nielsen currently finds itself in a scuffle with all of the networks, not just NBCU, for undercounting both linear and streaming audiences during the pandemic. The Video Advertising Bureau is demanding an audit of Nielsen by Ernst & Young – which Nielsen has so far declined.

And even as Nielsen plans to spend the next couple of years updating its currency, the networks are ready to move forward. NBCU doesn’t believe the future of TV measurement will center around a single provider.

We don’t believe that there will be singular monolithic solution in the future,” Bhatia said. “No single approach can move fast enough, quite frankly, with the consumer, and with technology to actually be measuring everything. And we’ve seen that time and time again over the past few years.”

NBCU is to partner with measurement companies to fill specific gaps – an arrangement  Abcarian will also help to oversee – but the network is betting that the future of TV measurement will require a number of tools from different providers.

“With the advancements in cloud-based computing, you’ll see a lot more opportunity between those solutions,” Bhatia said. “And with the proliferation of first party data collection by players like NBCUniversal and others, you’ll have matchable identities in a privacy compliant way that will actually make those solutions interoperable.”

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