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More Programmers Have Total Content Ratings Issues

Other major programmers say they have concerns about Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings similar to those expressed by NBCUniversal in a letter to the company.

Fox Networks Group and Viacom have also expressed concerns to Nielsen, and the issues contained in the letter from NBCU chairman of ad sales and client partnerships Linda Yaccarino have been voiced in client meetings over the past few months, executives said.

Yaccarino said Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings are not ready to be distributed because they still don’t count big chunks of over-the-top and streaming video. NBCU is one of the biggest players in the video ad market, and other big programmers also have complaints.

“We have already voiced the areas that we were concerned about with Nielsen,” said Joe Marchese, president of advertising products, Fox Networks Group.

One of Fox’s concerns is that Nielsen’s new measurement doesn’t fairly compare TV with online video.

“It’s not just the accuracy of the measurement, but it’s the comparability,” Marchese said, because it doesn’t take into account share of screen or the duration of views. That can cause confusion in the marketplace he says.

Marchese expects Nielsen will have more conversations with its clients about Total Content Ratings. “I expect we’ll have a meeting and we’ll discuss a lot of the same issues we’ve been discussing,” he said. But he said these metrics don’t help with Fox’s ultimate goal of improving the consumer experience and reducing ad loads.

Sources indicated that Viacom also has complaints. Viacom has been lobbying both Nielsen and comScore to produce ratings that include more digital viewing. But Viacom is also concerned that because there are technical difficulties getting multiple networks ready for Total Content Ratings, when they first launch the comparisons won’t be clear because some networks will include more forms of viewing than others.

A Viacom spokesperson declined to comment.

Nielsen in a statement said it stands by its Total Content Ratings.

After word of NBCU’s letter was reported, analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group noted that he’d been hearing what he called “mixed messages” from Nielsen’s clients about the state of the product, “both the process by which the data is gathered and whether the data is reflective of the actual consumption of content.”

But Wieser said issues with Total Content Ratings wouldn’t impact Nielsen’s business.

“Although the news may raise some concerns for investors in Nielsen and national TV network owners, we do not think there will be any meaningful business impact at this time,” Wieser said in a research note Thursday.

“There have been great hopes that TCR would somehow put to rest concerns about the competitive standing of Nielsen’s flagship national TV measurement products. The reality was always that Nielsen was never as threatened by comScore or other alternatives as many feared, and that TCR (along with related advertising measurement streams of data) was never going to meaningfully alter Nielsen’s dominant position in this business,” he said. “In whatever form it takes, we think that Nielsen will still be regarded as the industry’s standard measure of video consumption, and that any flaws that may exist in the product at present will eventually be remedied.”

Wieser added that measure changes won’t impact how much money networks get from advertisers. "However, the concept of TCR was probably the best initiative we are aware of that would have helped national TV owners explain to stakeholders (marketers and investors in particular) that consumption of their content is not declining, as conventional C3-based ratings would suggest," he said.

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.