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Nielsen: “We Have What It Takes To Be A TV Currency”


Nielsen is finally getting some positive recognition.

The Media Rating Council (MRC) reinstated its accreditation of Nielsen’s national TV ratings this week, 19 months after suspending it for undercounting viewing during the pandemic.

The MRC reversing its decision demonstrates that Nielsen “has what it takes to be in the TV currency game,” Karthik Rao, CEO of Nielsen’s audience measurement division, told AdExchanger.

And Nielsen very much needs to remind the industry of that fact if it hopes to win out against all the competition that cropped up when it fell. After all, Nielsen still has a long way to go to regain the trust of an industry that is already moving ahead with other options.

With Nielsen ONE, the ratings giant is in the middle of transitioning toward impression-based measurement instead of panel-based measurement. It also plans to debut its commercial ratings using big data at this year’s upfronts, which have yet to earn third-party accreditation.

Not to mention the company’s accreditation for local ratings is still in the auditing process and remains suspended.

Rao spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What does this reaccreditation mean for Nielsen?

KARTHIK RAO: This is a major moment for Nielsen. The industry really pushed us to improve since our accreditation was suspended in 2021, and it’s been tireless work since then.

But we know that accreditation is the only way the industry can trust what makes up a currency. And now we’re back to being the only accredited service for national ratings in the country.

What did the reaccreditation process entail?


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It took a lot of effort from us. The MRC has the most rigorous standards for ad measurement and currency.

Not only did we have to make changes to ensure we were adhering to these standards, but we also had to undergo over 25,000 hours of audits from a third party to prove that the changes we made were working. It’s a very empirical process that culminates in an MRC vote.

Why did MRC only reaccredit Nielsen’s national ratings and not local measurement?

The MRC didn’t choose to keep local accreditation suspended. Only our national ratings were up for reaccreditation after completing the auditing process.

Our other measurement services are still undergoing audits, including digital and audio, because the specific standards and the timelines for auditing are all different.

Does this mean Nielsen’s commercial ratings that include big data are also undergoing a separate audit?

Yes. We want to make sure that every single product we put out undergoes this rigorous verification process.

Why is Nielsen sticking to its plan to transact media on ratings with big data during the upfronts, even if unaccredited?

Clients on the buy and sell side are the ones who decide what they use for upfront commitments. Our job is to put out the capabilities that clients are asking for and convince them we’ve made significant improvements to our methodology.

To what extent does reaccreditation for Nielsen’s national ratings help prove this point to clients?

Reaccreditation not only creates confidence that Nielsen has what it takes to be a currency, but solidifies the fact that Nielsen meets very high standards as the only industry body that’s been doing TV audience measurement for decades.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more articles featuring Karthik Rao, click here.

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