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Media Rating Council 'Concerned' About Accuracy of Nielsen's Plan To Include Broadband-Only Homes in Local Ratings

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The Media Rating Council on Thursday said it was concerned about the accuracy of Nielsen’s system for measuring TV viewing in broadband only homes.

Nielsen plans to add data from broadband-only homes to its local TV market measurement in January.

Local stations have objected to the plan, worried that broadband homes watch less traditional TV, driving down their ratings. On Wednesday Wendy McMahon, president of ViacomCBS’s CBS station group, sent a letter to Nielsen objecting to Nielsen’s plan to go forward with adding the broadband homes despite issues uncovered by the MRC.

The broadband only situation is the latest in a series of issues Nielsen has had to deal with as measuring audiences gets more complicated in a world where more viewers are streaming and more advertisers are targeting their commercials to smaller groups of consumers.

The MRC, which issues the industry’s seal of approval for audience measurement methodologies, earlier this year revoked its accreditation of Nielsen’s national ratings service. The MRC helped confirm the contention by TV networks that Nielsen had been undercounting viewing.

Also: Ad Industry Seeks Alternatives After Nielsen Loses Seal of Approval

On Wednesday, Nielsen also disclosed that a computer software issue led to some out-of-home viewing not being included in its national ratings.

Regarding the plan to include broadband-only homes in its local ratings, the MRC said “we are concerned about the accuracy of Nielsen’s measurement of these homes at the present time based on our audit’s findings.”

The MRC said there was a “relatively high” percentage of crediting inaccuracy by the meters Nielsen plans to use to measure viewing in broadband only homes. The MRC also had questions about the way Nielsen was creating its estimates for how many broadband-only homes there are.

“MRC’s precedence with Nielsen is that Nielsen will strongly consider data accuracy issues uncovered by our audits when deciding when to operationalize new initiatives, and that Nielsen should investigate and clear these issues prior to implementing into production,” the MRC said. "Until the matters resulting from our audit have been fully addressed and their resolutions verified, MRC’s concerns about the accuracy of the viewing measurements derived from the BBO Homes remain.”

On Wednesday, Nielsen released a statement in response to McMahon’s letter.

"As previously announced, Nielsen will begin including Broadband Only Homes in Local TV Measurement on January 6, 2022,” Nielsen said. 

“We have completed the audit of the Broadband only universe estimates. Separate from the BBO UEs, additional concerns were raised by the MRC TV Committee, including the collection of data and crediting from the Nano meter. Our findings show that the Nano meter accurately credits codes and signatures when it remains properly installed. We will continue to make improvements to our procedures that ensure ongoing correct meter set up in panelist households, and are sharing those details with the MRC and clients,” Nielsen said. “The integration of Broadband Only Homes in January will provide buyers and sellers with a more complete view of video consumption and a consistent framework for combining and comparing metrics across channels and platforms."  ■ 

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.