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Latest Nielsen ONE Launch: No More Zeroes?

September 5 2023

Nielsen is to make the 'Big Data' element of its Nielsen ONE hybrid service 'available for measurement' this month. Although this has yet to gain accreditation, the MRC's George Ivie says he is not looking to block a move which appears to promise substantial benefits for smaller networks.

Pete DoeEight months after Nielsen said it was ready for a full launch of the first elements of its ONE cross-platform measurement solution and almost three years after first announcing it, Chief Data and Research Officer Pete Doe spelt out in a blog post last week the advantages of the new data, specifically for programs with very small niche audiences which at present are often given a zero rating due to nobody on a panel watching them. The new 'panel plus big data' measurement brings in return-path data (RPD) from MVPDs and automatic content recognition (ACR) data from smart TVs, says Doe, 'significantly improving the audience measurement by making it more precise and effectively addressing the problem of 'zero ratings''. Doe says Big Data on its own ' doesn't measure everything on the screen or tell you who's watching', but believes that in combination with panel data it represents a significant improvement on what's gone before.

Ivie, the CEO and Executive Director of US accreditation body the Media Rating Council (MRC), seems to have some sympathy with this viewpoint, notwithstanding the fact that the MRC's audit committee is likely to pronounce on the new system in the next few weeks. In an interview with news publisher www.mediapost.com , Ivie said he was not keen to step into the middle of the discussion about whether or not the new data can be used as an ad sales currency - Nielsen has repeatedly used the word 'measurement' rather than 'trading' or 'commercial use' - when this would appear unfair on smaller players. MediaPost spells this reasoning out: 'the benefits the new data has for long-tail and minority TV sellers that have not been able to generate reportable ratings via Nielsen's panel-only measurement, may outweigh the methodological risks for now'.

Ivie, stressing that it is not the MRC's job to design Nielsen's methodology, told MediaPost: 'Sometimes I go to Nielsen and say, 'We've got to complete this audit and we have to get it in front of the committee before there's any commercial use of this... [but] I don't feel comfortable throwing the MRC in the middle of all of that and prohibiting the move forward when there is a substantial benefit. Big Data reduces something like 99% of zero-rated time periods. Ninety-nine percent. It adds some stability to the data'.

Doe (pictured) said in his post that in the first quarter of this year the Nielsen panel reported zero ratings (live +3 days) for 8,454 telecasts across broadcast, cable and syndicated TV, out of a total of 362,168 total telecasts - equivalent to around 2% of all programs. In most cases, the lack of any viewers in the panel 'reflects the limitation of the measurement rather than what actually happened in the population. In other words, there was some low level of viewing in the population, [but] the viewers were not found in the panel'. Combining TV data from c.30 million homes with Nielsen's 40,000-home / 100,000-person panel 'reduces the statistical sampling errors associated with panel measurement, including the presence of zero ratings' - in fact in this case it removed around 99.9% of zero ratings. In specific audience groups the effect can be equally impressive: in the first quarter there were 3,471 Hispanic program telecasts that generated zero ratings (live+3 days) on Hispanic networks when measured with panel data: once big data is added to the mix, all of these disappear.

Web sites: www.nielsen.com and www.mediaratingcouncil.org .

All articles 2006-23 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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