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Discovery’s David Zaslav Blasts 'Antiquated’ ‘Unreliable’ Nielsen

Discovery David Zaslav
David Zaslav (Image credit: Discovery)

Discovery CEO David Zaslav blasted Nielsen, calling the measurement company “antiquated” and noting that “recently they’ve just been wrong.”

Speaking on Discovery’s second-quarter earnings call Tuesday, Zaslav said “it’s massively disappointing that Nielsen can’t get its act together and the answer is we have lost money. Everyone lost money. It’s just you’re dealing with a very antiquated delivery system.”

VAB, the trade group representing TV networks and distributors, claimed that Nielsen undercounted viewing because it wasn’t able to maintain the integrity of its viewer panels during the pandemic. The Media Ratings Council confirmed that both Nielsen’s national and local ratings services had under reporting viewing.

Also Read: VAB Asked MRC To Suspend Nielsen Ratings Accreditation

Nielsen has said that it is on track to rebuilding its panel, but Zaslav had little faith in Nielsen going forward.

“I don’t have a lot of hope for Nielsen,” he said. “I think somehow as an industry we’re going to have to work our way out of it from a technology perspective and leave them in the dust because they just can’t get it together. It’s a shame.”

Zaslav said that Discovery was working to augment the numbers from Nielsen with its own data. 

“That’s the future, is to get better data,” he said. “We’re competing with the likes of Google and Facebook where they have the best data, the cleanest data and you compare it with this antiquated system.” 

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.