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NBCU’s Yaccarino: ‘We Couldn’t Wait For Nielsen Any Longer’

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LindaYaccarinoNielsen’s having a tough week.

On Tuesday, comScore and Rentrak, two of Nielsen’s top competitors, announced their intention to merge into a single measurement monolith. And on Thursday, business channel CNBC, a division of NBCUniversal, will officially kick Nielsen to the curb, turning instead to research firm Cogent Reports for its audience measurement.

Comcast-owned NBCUniversal first announced its intention to jettison Nielsen in January.

NBCUniversal, like every network, needs to prove the value of its audiences to advertisers – and Nielsen’s standard TV-viewing measurement wasn’t cutting it for out-of-home, said NBCU’s president of ad sales, Linda Yaccarino, speaking at an Interactive Advertising Bureau event during Advertising Week on Tuesday.

Ad sales are largely focused on C3, a transactional metric Nielsen launched in 2007, which combines audience ratings for average commercial minutes plus three days of total playback for VOD. But that doesn’t take into consideration CNBC viewers as they watch the channel throughout their day, moving from the corner office to the gym to the trading room floor.

“One day I hope to wake up and Nielsen will actually be able to measure cross-platform viewership, but today we can’t do it – and I can’t help our marketing customers as much as I would like to,” Yaccarino said. “We couldn’t wait for Nielsen any longer.”

According to NBCUniversal’s own estimates, anywhere from 12% to 30% of overall viewership remains unmeasured. And that’s mainly due to a “lack of leadership” around fixing the measurement situation, Yaccarino said.

Accurate measurement is particularly acute for a highly verticalized network like CNBC that attracts a niche audience of well-heeled financial types. That’s an attractive crowd for a blue-chip advertiser like TD Ameritrade, for example – but “TD doesn’t buy spots on CNBC for a C3 rating,” Yaccarino said.

And that’s because the current Nielsen panel for CNBC’s C3 rating – until Thursday, that is, when CNBC moves to Cogent – is determined by a tiny sample of just nine homes meant to represent its nationwide viewership.

“God forbid one of those guys goes on vacation in the summer – my rating goes down 20%,” Yaccarino quipped, calling such a small sample an “inappropriate” measure to determine the national distribution of a cable network rating.

Although CNBC is the only NBCUniversal outlet jumping the Nielsen ship at the moment, Yaccarino intimated that others could be on deck to do the same.

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“This is a strategic first step to take that jump,” she said. “[NBCU] can be that leadership for the industry, to say, ‘Nothing bad is going to happen. We can live without the C3 rating.’”

But one thing NBCUniversal appears unable to live without is access to data and to digital audiences. It’s a need that underpinned NBCU’s dual multimillion-dollar investment in Vox and BuzzFeed in August.

“Comcast, NBCUniversal, BuzzFeed, Vox – it’s quite an enticing notion to think about the picture of the future that we’re trying to paint,” Yaccarino said. “We don’t really talk about television anymore, we talk about video technology. … You’ve got to bring the data to create the content to drive the revenue that keeps the entire ecosystem alive.”

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