Home Measurement Nielsen Claims Its Place In The TV Currency Race

Nielsen Claims Its Place In The TV Currency Race


All the recent commotion about alternative TV currencies, including some in the past month alone, has raised questions – which is to say, concerns – about the longevity of Nielsen panels.

So, Nielsen held a press briefing on Wednesday to reassert itself as a modern measurement company (meaning the measurement company) ahead of upfront negotiations. This assertion included a status update on its currency offerings and a comparison to its competitors.

Currently, Nielsen’s panel-only measurement product is its endorsed currency. It has others, but its panel product is still its default. However, in September this year, the company plans to officially recommend its combined currency based on both panels and TV viewing data sets that consist of set-top box data and automatic content recognition data, Deirdre Thomas, chief product officer of Nielsen’s audience measurement division, told press.

Last year, its “panels plus big data” product, available in the Nielsen ONE Ads dashboard, had “some adoption, but not massive adoption because it wasn’t the official currency yet,” Thomas said.

The result of the prolonged timeline, Nielsen claims, is a pairing of panels and large viewership data sets that could outcompete its younger adversaries.

Having an impact

Before filtering non-panel data into its ratings, Nielsen first makes it available as “impact data” for research and planning purposes.

Incorporating data in increments allows advertisers to compare the effect of certain big data sets on their campaign reach and frequency.

For example, Nielsen started by integrating viewership data from Vizio, Roku, DirecTV and DISH into the Nielsen ONE national measurement dashboard last year. This year, Nielsen added set-top box data from Comcast as “impact data” so advertisers can start to understand the effects that data set would have on the performance of campaigns they’ve already planned, Thomas said.

Advertisers need to compare the impact of newer data sets over time, which she said was Nielsen’s reason for its decision in the fall to postpone its transition away from its historic ratings. And to be fair, some agencies think it’s still too early to fully transact TV campaigns on big data alone.

Thomas said the big data sets effectively add “better ingredients” to the measurement and currency product suite.


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And better ingredients can create new and improved dishes.

In addition to its panel-based products with and without set-top box and ACR data, Nielsen has a third currency option it unveiled last year: individual commercial metrics.

Traditional TV ratings are based on the average amount of ads seen by audiences over the course of several days, whereas individual commercial metrics provide a rating for every spot in a program. This offering should be useful for advertisers that buy one-to-one addressable inventory and want to target a specific person within a household, Thomas said.

The new individual commercial metric is a step in the right direction toward impression-level TV ad measurement, she added.

Better together

But naturally, Nielsen says the value of its big data offerings come from pairing the data with panels.

Audience panels correct for errors in viewership info from aggregated data sets, Thomas said. For example, TV sets that are turned off sometimes send return-path data when an attached TV viewing device, such as a set-top box or gaming console, is still turned on. ACR also has gaps: the technology often can’t recognize hyperlocal TV stations because it relies on a reference library of content it has already seen before.

Nielsen says it can correct these discrepancies with its panels, which track what people are actually watching, and adjusts measurement reports accordingly.

At this point in the measurement game, the industry doesn’t disagree with Nielsen’s stance on the importance of panels. But Nielsen insists its audience panel is better than any panel its competitors are using because Nielsen has maintained live panel data for decades.

Besides, some companies conflate audience panels with calibration panels, Thomas said. Audience panels like Nielsen’s are modeled to be representative of the overall population, but calibration panels are much smaller and designed for specific technical use cases, such as measuring attention. (Case in point: at least two of Nielsen’s main competitors use TVision’s panel for this purpose.)

By adding big data to its decades-old audience panel, Thomas said Nielsen believes it can differentiate itself from its rivals.

But only time will tell.

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