Nielsen Rescinds Rules On Combining Show Ratings

After an outcry from its clients, Nielsen Co. is rescinding a change that allowed broadcast networks to combine two airings of a show to produce a single rating, officials said Tuesday.

Nielsen was responding to a furor that occurred when NBC used a new option that the ratings company had authorized, which allowed the Peacock Network to include the unduplicated viewing from a re-broadcast of Heroes on Saturday, Sept. 29, with the viewing to the Monday, Sept. 24, telecast. The results were reported as a single program rating for that Monday.

NBC’s actions were completely consistent with Nielsen reporting policy, the ratings company said in a media advisory Tuesday.

“However, as a result, Nielsen received a significant amount of feedback from its clients in which concern was expressed regarding the consequences of this processing change,” Nielsen said.

“Clients told us that it was essential for the ratings to the individual telecasts to remain available so that viewing to each telecast can be analyzed separately and to ensure there is no ratings gap in any time period,” Nielsen said. “In addition, clients commented that the ability to combine two telecasts should not be allowed unless the option was available for all national media types.” 

Nielsen implemented a change Aug. 27 that permitted two broadcast-network airings of the same program to be combined into one reported rating if the program and commercial content were the same.

“The intent of this change was to provide clients with more flexible reporting options so that ratings could be produced consistent with new ways in which programs are aired,” Nielsen said in its advisory.

Now, Nielsen said it is establishing a policy to prevent a recurrence of a broadcast network program airing twice with only one rating reported. 

“Specifically, if a broadcast network re-airs the same episode then ratings for both the original and the repeat will be reported,” Nielsen said. “This policy is effective immediately on a moving forward basis.”

The ratings company, however, also said there was a need to explore new reporting options to give clients more flexibility in how ratings are produced.

“As we pursue new ideas we will ensure that any new option is additive and that it be available to all clients,” Nielsen said.