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Nielsen Reverses Course on Out-of-Home Viewing

(Image credit: Nielsen)

Under pressure from clients who felt blindsided, Nielsen will include out-of-home viewing in its national ratings starting in September as originally planned.

On Wedneday, Nielsen told clients that it was delaying adding out-of-home viewing to ratings because of complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We regret any disruption we may have caused you, your customers, and the market this week. Going forward, we are committed to ensuring a more complete, inclusive, and transparent process as the currency evolves with changing consumer behavior,” Nielsen CEO David Kenny said in a letter sent to clients late Friday.

David Kenny

David Kenny (Image credit: Nielsen)

TV networks had been counting on selling those extra viewers to advertisers--especially in sports programming--and complained. 

ViacomCBS called the Wednesday decision “unacceptable and unjustifiable” and VAB, the industry trade group representing the biggest TV ad sellers, sent an "urgent" letter to Kenny imploring the measurement company to integrate the out-of-home data "without delay."

In his letter Friday, Kenny said that “after speaking with many clients and learning more about your specific agreements for the upcoming season, it became clear that we had misunderstood the extent to which upfront deals have already been agreed to using out-of-home metrics. Given the circumstances, we recognize that a delay would cause greater disruption to the industry than maintaining our original plan.”

The VAB expressed relief that Nielsen moves quickly to resolve what could have been a problem in the middle of an already chaotic upfront market.  

“While gratified by the speed with which Nielsen reversed their postponement plan, it was crystal clear that a quick reversal was Nielsen’s only viable option,”  said VAB CEO Sean Cunningham. “Marketers are deep into planning and activation discussions with their multiscreen TV ad sales partners, the last thing advertisers need in 2020 is an unnecessary step backwards from a currency provider, the TV industry’s solidarity in always pushing for innovation made sure that potential delay was eliminated quickly.”  

Here is the text of Kenny's letter:

At Nielsen, we take pride in providing the market with transparent metrics that our clients can use to transact with confidence. 

Earlier this week we communicated a delay to our plans to integrate out-of-home audiences into the National TV currency this fall. Our concern was about consumer behavior, and not the Nielsen methodology. While out-of-home audiences have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, our methodology is strong and the data is reflective of consumer behavior. 

That said, after speaking with many clients and learning more about your specific agreements for the upcoming season, it became clear that we had misunderstood the extent to which upfront deals have already been agreed to using out-of-home metrics. Given the circumstances, we recognize that a delay would cause greater disruption to the industry than maintaining our original plan. I also believe Nielsen needs to deliver on our promises, so that you can transact with trust and confidence. Therefore, Nielsen will move forward with the integration of out-of-home TV viewing into the National TV currency measurement starting in September 2020, as originally planned. We will also provide additional data on out-of-home behavior to help you interpret behavior shifts during the pandemic.  

We regret any disruption we may have caused you, your customers, and the market this week. Going forward, we are committed to ensuring a more complete, inclusive, and transparent process as the currency evolves with changing consumer behavior. 

Respectfully yours,  

David Kenny CEO and Chief Diversity Officer Nielsen