Nielsen Q1: Hope For Total Audience, Though Revenue Misses The Mark

nielsen q1Nielsen is chomping at the bit to start measuring total audience, but it also needs advertisers and publishers to figure out what exactly they want, especially in video.

In its Q1 2015 earnings call, Nielsen reiterated last quarter’s commitment to push forward on “Total Audience Measurement” as its top 2015 priority.

Total Audience Measurement, as described by CEO Mitch Barns, is less a product than a framework designed to accommodate comprehensive measurement. For video specifically, that means a combined measurement for live TV, time-shifted TV, over-the-top video and online video across devices.

But, as analysts on the call pointed out, that’s easier said than done, and Nielsen has some well-documented challenges ahead. Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings tool mixes panel data, which Nielsen is known for, and data from Facebook. Why couldn’t Nielsen do something similar with TV/video measurement and tie in census data from set-top boxes?

Barns indicated that combining data sets with Nielsen panels is indeed the way forward for comprehensive TV/video measurement.

“We do that in some parts of our portfolio, like in Digital Audience Measurement,” he said. “We see that applying to TV audience measurement in the future as well. The key is doing it in a way that shows full visibility and is comfortable to the industry.”

Nielsen already uses set-top box data for analytics, Barns added, which is an easier application.

“It’s much more difficult when it comes to measurement,” he said.

It is ultimately up to the advertisers and video publishers to decide what type of measurement to use. Nielsen’s role in that conversation is to foster the conversation, tell the industry what the options are and to execute on a chosen strategy.

“But any redefinition of the currency has to be made [by the advertisers and video providers],” Barns said. And the industry is still in the “early innings” in terms of agreeing on what comprehensive video measurement will look like.

More bits and pieces

The rise of programmatic ad buying is directly influencing the growth of Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings product, Barns said. He’s hopeful the company’s recent acquisition of eXelate, a data company that also owns a data-management platform (DMP), will further facilitate that expansion.

We see two great sources of value from this acquisition,” Barns said. “One is the business itself, but the second are the capabilities that reside inside of eXelate.” He mentioned that the company’s DMP technology is “the perfect environment” to enable marketers to connect their first-party data with third-party data.

Nielsen Audio (née Arbitron) is growing in the low single digits because the company is focused on international expansion.

“Contracts for audio measurement around the world only come up every few years, so it’s a slower ramp,” Barns said, adding he hopes to capitalize on the opportunity to bring analytics capabilities to the audio industry. As with video, audio measurement has a consensus problem. Digital radio, terrestrial radio and the agencies that represent still haven’t agreed on what audience metrics should look like.

In terms of partnerships, Nielsen hopes its non-exclusive integration with Google’s DoubleClick (rival comScore also has a similar partnership) will help it gain a toehold on the highly competitive cliff of text-based digital advertising. And Nielsen anticipates its partnership with Adobe will bear fruit mid-year in the form of a beta deployment of Digital Content Ratings. A full-scale commercial launch will hopefully follow Sept. 30.

Barns sees the prospective Digital Content Ratings product as a complement to Digital Ad Ratings. The former will complete the latter and clients, he said, will use the two together.

In terms of financials (we can’t forget that!), foreign exchange rates reared its ugly head again, casting revenue down 2.1% YoY to $1.46 billion, below analyst expectations of $1.5 billion. Without those rate fluctuations, revenue was up 4.4%.

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