Nielsen Asks MRC To Put National Ratings Accreditation on Hiatus

Nielsen VAB MRC

NIelsen, under fire for undercounting TV viewing during the pandemic, has asked that the accreditation process for the national TV rating service used to buy and sell billions of dollars worth of advertising be put on hiatus.

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

Networks and distributors represented by their trade group, VAB, had called for NIelsen’s accreditation to be suspended. VAB also called for an audit of Nielsen’s rating system after it turned out that Nielsen was unable to properly manage its sample homes during the pandemic. 

Problems with the sample led to NIelsen reporting fewer people watching TV during the pandemic, the VAB charged. NIelsen said there had been little impact, but the MRC soon confirmed that underdelivery had occurred in both Nielsen’s national ratings and its local ratings.

Nielsen ratings services are constantly being reviewed by the MRC. MRC accreditation is important to Nielsen’s network and media-buying clients, who rely on the MRC to give Nielsen’s methodology its seal of approval.

Also Read: Discovery’s David Zaslav Blasts 'Antiquated’ ‘Unreliable’ Nielsen

Nielsen said a hiatus would enable it to focus on its fixing its panels and developing its new Nielsen One measurement system, which is designed to treat viewing on all platforms consistently. 

“While we remain confident in the integrity of our data and measurement, and fully support the audit process, we believe that moving to a hiatus allows us to concentrate our audit-related efforts on continuing to address panel concerns alongside the transformation of our National TV product and development of Nielsen One,” a Nielsen spokesman said. 

VAB CEO Sean Cunningham said Nielsen's actions only put off the inevitable.

“After months of Nielsen’s very public insistence that there nothing wrong with their ratings data, but now facing a slam-dunk VAB case for accreditation suspension, Nielsen has essentially announced ‘you can’t fire me, I quit’ just hours before the MRC suspension vote process is activated," Cunningham said.

" What cannot be evaded or dodged is the level of all-industry intervention coming to Nielsen with a mandate of change-or-die transparency needed for going forward with any real credibility. The VAB will be pursuing the case for radical Nielsen change with more voracity than ever," Cunningham said.

Nielsen said that since March, it has been working to get its panels back up to full strength. 

“We’re applying key learnings from the last 18 months and are actively making adjustments to our field operations that will inform our processes as we prepare for possible impact from surging COVID-19 variants, while also diligently ensuring the health and safety of our panel homes and people,” the NIelsen spokesman said. 

“We believe hiatus is the best course of action at this time and will allow us to focus on innovating our core products, continuing to deliver data that the industry can rely on and ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry,” the spokesman concluded.

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.