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NBCU Seeks Solutions to ‘Outdated’ Measurement as Nielsen Accreditation Decision Looms

NBCUniversal Peacock
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

As Nielsen awaits a decision on whether it will be granted a pause in the accreditation process for its national ratings services, or if its accreditation will be revoked, NBCUniversal is calling for the industry to find new, independent ways to measure audiences and the impact of advertising.

NBCU said it will no longer be dependent on one metric or one partner to determine the value of its products, particularly an outdated metric, like the “outdated” traditional TV ratings. The company is calling on the industry to ask all of the measurement companies it works with, including Nielsen, to create new yardsticks for defining value as the industry pivots from traditional TV to a new multi-screen streaming environment.

NBCU earlier this month sent a request for proposal to a range of measurement companies, including Nielsen, seeking accurate, robust, and independent measurement services to be used across planning, forecasting, activation, optimization, reporting, and post campaign assessment. In 2015, NBCU's CNBC dumped Nielsen measurement of daytime viewing in favor of Cogent Reports, believing Nielsen missed too much of the business news network's out-of-home viewing during the day. 

Nielsen has been under fire by networks and distributors who notice that Nielsen undercounted viewership during the pandemic because Nielsen was unable to maintain its sample size and quality because of COVID protocols that kept it from visiting sample homes in person.

The Media Rating Council, working with Nielsen, confirmed that undercounting occurred. The undercounting potentially cost the industry millions of dollars in ad revenue, enraging executives including David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery.

While the MRC was evaluating Nielsen, Nielsen asked that the accreditation process for its national TV ratings service be put on hiatus. A hiatus gives a company six months to solve problems in their measurement procedures. The MRC is still deciding whether or not to grant that hiatus.  

Also Read: Nielsen Has 'Deep Rooted, Ongoing Performance Issues,' MRC Says

The accreditation process for Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings service has been on hiatus since October and its local TV ratings has been on hiatus since January.

Nielsen said it is working to implement its new Nielsen One ratings system, designed to measure broadcast and streaming media on a comparable and consistent basis.

"We remain confident in our current measurement solutions and look toward a media future that is underpinned by measurement advancements that follow the consumer cross-platform journey and keep pace with the rapid advancements in technology," a Nielsen spokesperson said.

Also Read: NBCU Shows Off Ad Tech Capabilities at One21 Event

NBCU has been working to create its own measurement systems, both to count audiences for events like the Olympics and evaluate the impact of the advertising it sells. It has been working with companies including iSpot.tv, Snowflake and VideoAmp on measurement systems and building what it calls its audience insights hub. It also rolled out its own identity system to help target advertising.

Also Read: NBCU Adopts Ad-ID To Improve Viewer Experience, Advertiser Results

On Aug. 2, NBC sent out a request for proposal seeking better approaches to measurement from companies including Comscore, Nielsen, Conviva, Trurthset, VideoAmp TVSquared and iSpot. 

The deadline for responses was Monday.

“As a leading broadcaster and programmer in the United States, NBCU has been pushing for and investing in measurement innovation for many years with the understanding that legacy measurement approaches are increasingly inadequate when it comes to accurately capturing total content and ad consumption across platforms and demographics for both programming and advertising,” the RFP said. “NBCU believes a healthy independent measurement ecosystem is important to the continued growth and success of the industry and having trusted partners to drive the future of content and advertising forward with our marketers and our viewers globally is paramount. NBCU plans to work with an array of measurement partners to provide an accurate, robust, and independent measurement services for NBCU to leverage across planning, forecasting, activation, optimization, reporting, and post campaign assessment. “

In the RFP, NBCU said it will “establish data and measurement interoperability with our measurement partners via NBCU Audience Insights Hub (AIH), aiming to share NBCU data in a safe and privacy compliant way with our partners to support both NBCU managed, and buy-side self-served measurement. NBCU and our measurement partners will work together to ensure we establish for our marketers a rigorous and reliable evaluation framework and methodology, which is foundational to accurate, reliable, and transparent measurement results.”

NBCU said it is looking for capabilities in audience verification, audience measurement, brand measurement, incrementality measurement, multi-touch attribution measurement and business outcome guarantees.  

In a blog post written by former Nielsen executive Kelly Abcarian, now executive VP, measurement & impact, at NBCUniversal, advertising and partnership, NBCU called on the industry to “declare measurement independence, and build solutions that will serve all consumers, advertisers, publishers, and platforms for the next century.”

Kelly Abcarian

Kelly Abcarian

The current measurement regimen is slowing down innovation in media, Abcarian said.

“Without a way to measure an idea's impact, innovative teams have a choice: stop developing new media experiences, or build new measurement. Social and streaming platforms chose independence over a single metric because it enabled them to pursue consumer-led innovation. Now the entire media industry can do the same,” she said.

“We can construct a better, more transparent future. And we need all our industry's builders--including Nielsen--to architect an entirely new blueprint,” she said.

Abcarian said NBCU is bringing together partners to modernize the industry approach to measurement and assembling its own interoperable measurement solutions.

“In this new era, more measurement options and collaboration will drive the future of content and advertising forward,” she said.

Here’s the text of Abcarian’s blog post

It's Time For Our Industry To Declare #MeasurementIndependence

By Kelly Abcarian, EVP, Measurement & Impact, NBCUniversal, Advertising and Partnerships

Here's something we all know: advertising measurement is outdated. Just scroll through the media headlines and it's impossible to avoid. An Olympics that saw both record consumer engagement and ratings declines. A high-profile dispute over box office numbers and streaming audiences. Or as the Media Rating Council's Board considers Nielsen's accreditation fate.

This problem is hardly new. The media and technology landscape has completely transformed over the last few years—yet measurement remains outdated. Why? Because the advertising industry has not adapted and it's holding us back.

But that’s not our fate. We can construct a better, more transparent future. And we need all our industry's builders--including Nielsen--to architect an entirely new blueprint. It's time for us to declare measurement independence, and build solutions that will serve all consumers, advertisers, publishers, and platforms for the next century.

#MeasurementIndependence Puts the Consumer First

"Putting the consumer first" is too important to become a hollow phrase. When companies depend on outdated advertising measurement, diverse and dynamic consumer behaviors get ignored. Meanwhile, consumer experience suffers with things like cluttered ad spaces. We should put people over ratings.

If consumers can embrace layers of complexity, then our industry should too. If there are multiple viewing experience, then we need multiple yardsticks. For example, we can work towards a universal identity to raise standards, and give marketers new tools to personalize and optimize their campaigns across platforms and programmers.

Interoperability, in a consumer safe and privacy compliant way, is the future of our industry, and the fastest road to measurement independence and a better consumer experience. In this fragmented landscape, we all understand different pieces of the consumer experience. So, let's make it whole. We just need to embrace new sources of identity signals and make data more accessible and actionable, because that unified picture will give us the ability to follow the consumer's lead.

#MeasurementIndependence Will Bust Open the Doors of Media Innovation

Any good marketer follows its consumer in constant pursuit of new innovation. But if we rely on outdated metrics, innovation in media slows down too. Old measurement incentivizes old methods—stifling more modern approaches and creative risk-taking. Just imagine the media innovations or partnerships we’ve scrapped because we didn't have the measurement to celebrate its true value.

Without a way to measure an idea's impact, innovative teams have a choice: stop developing new media experiences, or build new measurement. Social and streaming platforms chose independence over a single metric because it enabled them to pursue consumer-led innovation. Now the entire media industry can do the same.

Measurement independence frees up innovation. It will require collaboration with measurement and data partners who can measure success outside the traditional box. Fortunately, there’s a growing list of measurement and data partners who are ready to support the next generation of innovations—from content and commerce, to cross-platform and publisher collaborations, and more.

#MeasurementIndependence Will Redefine Impact for Advertisers and Publishers

Finally, advertisers and publishers are in search of improved measurement solutions. Because when they meet at the negotiating table, they depend on third-party measurement to help define value and impact. The reasons are clear: Marketers want their impact in today's terms. Meanwhile, for publishers, the gaps in measurement are gaps in what can be monetized.

Measurement independence will create more modern, transparent, and reliable measurement standards. Interoperable data sets will produce better inputs, more ways to de-duplicate data and new methods to measure any KPI. With more comprehensive and trustworthy standards, advertisers can confidently shift from ratings to results, and move closer to measuring what matters -- impact.

Declaring #MeasurementIndependence and Taking Action

By declaring measurement independence we can build a new, global currency that reflects consumer behavior accurately and values content fairly. We can level up the playing field with more datasets and multiple yardsticks for multiple kinds of impact.

For our part, NBCUniversal is bringing together a broad network of trusted partners to help modernize the industry's approach. We're in the process of assembling a full suite of interoperable measurement solutions that are as advanced, diverse, easy-to-use, and multi-platform as the ways people watch content. And we'll share more updates on the steps we're taking in the next few weeks.

In this new era, more measurement options and collaboration will drive the future of content and advertising forward.

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.