Nielsen Says Rollout of New Local Ratings System Done

Nielsen said it has completed its overhaul of the way it measures TV viewing in the 208 local markets in the U.S.

Over the course of the multi-year process, Nielsen’s infamous paper diaries have been replaced with a combination of panels, new meters and return path data from two million households. Nielsen now measures 15 million homes through return path data homes alone.

Nielsen, which is competing with Comscore for local TV ratings business, said its new system is more complete and more accurate than its old ratings service.

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“We have built a business on trust, integrity and transparency. Our local TV measurement solutions reflect this with innovative technology and big data, validated by scientifically designed panels for TV and cross platform measurement,” said Catherine Herkovic, executive VP and managing director of Nielsen Local TV. "Only Nielsen provides this to the marketplace. We are thrilled to bring these improvements to the market as we continue to provide best-in-class trusted measurement.”

Local viewing information is being used to sell advertising by local stations, which are transitioning from using ratings as currency to impressions.

Nielsen said impressions are the foundation of its data calculations and have always been included in its reports. Nielsen said it supports the move to impressions, which should simplify buying local audiences across platforms and put local on the same playing field as local.

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“We support the hard work that Nielsen has put into evolving the local TV measurement business," said Kathy Doyle, executive VP, local investment for media buyer IPG/Magna. “We believe the future of video measurement requires a combination of big data sets and panels, and we applaud Nielsen’s efforts to bring that paradigm to local television.”

Nielsen began implementing the new local ratings system last summer, when paper diaries were replaced by electronic measurement in the smaller 137 markets.

In the remaining 71 markets, 44 are now getting portable people meter measurement integrated with existing TV panels . That PPM data will be added to the TV panels in Nielsen’s 25 Local People Meter Markets and its 19 set-meter markets. Adding PPM data double the number of households and people used to calculate local ratings.

The other local 27 markets get ratings based in part on return path data from 2 million households. The large number of households makes the data more stable and reliable, Nielsen said.

“The local TV environment has changed and the industry has long awaited developments in measurement that capture the myriad viewing preferences of our audiences,” said Wendy McMahon, president of ABC Owned Television Stations Group. “Nielsen’s Local TV measurement delivers greater accuracy and stability on the audience’s size and composition giving us a better understanding of audience behavior and delivering greater ROI to our advertisers. The ABC Owned TV Stations are already seeing gains across all dayparts with these advancements in measurement.”

Nielsen also has plans to expand its cross-platform reach to continue to provide the most accurate, complete and connected measurement available to local broadcasters, agencies and advertisers.

“Nielsen data represents everyone. Being able to measure local TV in a way that represents all races, ages, ethnicity and behaviors is more critical than ever," Herkovic said. "Only Nielsen offers a complete, unbiased, holistic view of local audiences.” 

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.