Home TV Nielsen Went Back On Its Big Data Promise. Now What?

Nielsen Went Back On Its Big Data Promise. Now What?


Nielsen’s mission to regain the industry’s trust isn’t going all that well.

The Media Rating Council (MRC) renewed Nielsen’s accreditation for national TV ratings late last month. But then, less than a week later, Nielsen announced that it’s delaying its previously publicized plans to add big data to its currency during this year’s upfronts.

Nielsen is reverting back to its panel-based C3 and C7 ratings that track average commercial time over three or seven days. Panels with big data will still be available as a currency for clients that ask for it, however, according to an official statement.

In other words, many agencies are now being forced to rethink their upfront strategies mere weeks before the upfronts.

Nielsen isn’t completely abandoning its plans to develop currency that includes big data. Instead, it seems to consider its reaccreditation as validation enough that it doesn’t need to scrap panels just yet.

But Nielsen is using its reaccreditation in an attempt to get a leg up over alternative currencies.

For example, it publicly refused to join the joint industry committee (JIC) to develop common video currency standards, in part because the committee doesn’t require alt currencies to get MRC accreditation as a prerequisite for certification.

At an event hosted by the JIC last week, John Halley, president of advertising at Paramount, even accused Nielsen of “weaponizing the MRC.”

To be fair, there might be another reason Nielsen backpedaled on big data: cold feet. It’s possible that Nielsen itself realizes its big data product isn’t ready for prime time, especially after the Video Advertising Bureau pressured Nielsen to delay its big data launch for this reason.

Regardless of why, the currency switch-up just weeks ahead of the upfronts has only added to the industry’s mounting frustrations with Nielsen. But what happens now?

We asked the experts: What does Nielsen’s delay on big data mean for agencies?


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  • Sean Cunningham, president and CEO, Video Advertising Bureau
  • Laurie Crowley, SVP and group director of investment, Havas Media Group
  • Jason Fairchild, co-founder and CEO, tvScientific
  • Geoffrey Calabrese, chief investment officer, Omnicom Media Group (OMG)

Sean Cunningham, president and CEO, Video Advertising Bureau 

Nielsen now falls another year behind in providing the level of cross-platform measurement and currency that the industry has needed for years. Nielsen’s timeline keeps expanding, revealing that it’s really playing a game of catch-up. Agencies and programmers all deserve better – they need new options for currency, not another year-old currency liability.

Laurie Crowley, SVP and group director of investment, Havas Media Group

At this stage, Nielsen’s decision to keep its C3 and C7 metrics panel-based for another broadcast year is a setback to the industry’s shift to more advanced currencies.

Jason Fairchild, co-founder and CEO, tvScientific

Big data from multiple sources is critical for audience-based currencies to measure anything beyond just reach and frequency.

Geoffrey Calabrese, chief investment officer, Omnicom Media Group (OMG)

Nielsen’s plans to continue using its historic panel as currency were reinforced when Nielsen’s MRC accreditation was reinstated for its national panels only. Nielsen’s amplification of its reaccreditation made it highly unlikely that the company would then turn around and push transactions on a different currency product with no accreditation.

What OMG finds even more disappointing than this reversal of plans is Nielsen’s decision not to participate in the JIC and join the industry’s effort to solve its measurement problems.

Answers have been lightly edited and condensed.

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