Analyst: Total Audience Complaints Don’t Hurt Nielsen

Complaints from multiple networks that Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings aren’t ready to be published might have a silver lining for the ratings company, according to analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein.

“While public complaints from customers aren't likely to be helpful to the stock in the near-term, we actually think this is a healthy and even positive sign for Nielsen,” Juenger wrote in a research report published Monday.

Juenger’s main points supporting that view are that the networks have very specific requirements, which means they “want more, not cheaper” services from Nielsen. And he notes that Nielsen is the only provider “even close” to delivering what the networks are asking for. Finally he notes that “we see no material impact on Nielsen revenue whether or not they syndicated [Total Audience Ratings] in March."

With more viewing migrating to digital devices and over-the-top distributors, major programmers want those eyeballs counted in the measurements used to make programming and advertising decisions. Nielsen and its competitor comScore are working on a schedule to provide cross-platform measurement.

Last week, NBCUniversal, the biggest seller of television advertising, sent a letter to Nielsen complaining that Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings didn’t count big buckets of viewers and wasn’t ready to be distributed to other programmers and media buyers.

Other programmers, including 21st Century Fox and Viacom also expressed reservations about TCR.

Nielsen stood by its product and, as Juenger notes, CBS has endorsed TCR and GroupM, a major media buyer, has signaled it wants to use Nielsen’s total measurement in the 2017 upfront. (GroupM is part of WPP, which owns a stake in comScore.)

Related: 7 Things You Need to Know About Nielsen's New Tool

Juenger says his expectation is that TAR “will generally be good for digital platforms and bad for TV networks, because we believe it will make the marketplace between TV and digital more fluid, which will accelerate the movement of dollars from TV to digital.”

He adds that Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s head of ad sales and the author of last week’s letter to Nielsen, “should be directing her complaints at the NBCU programming department. Or the internet. Or all those pesky young people who don’t anymore want to watch linear TV on a schedule with an overload of advertising.”

Juenger says it is not clear whether Nielsen will go ahead with its plans to syndicate its TAR data on March 1.

“Here we have some customers saying ‘delay,’ but other customers saying ‘move forward’ Very hard (impossible?) to satisfy both groups. Some compromise seems likely,” Juenger said.

(Photo via FamZoo Staff's FlickrImage taken on May 25, 2016 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.