The TV networks and distributors represented by the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) are calling on the Media Rating Council to suspend the accreditation of Nielsen’s national ratings service, saying the ratings agency hasn't made changes since undercounting TV homes during the pandemic.
VAB charges that in multiple, major and persistent ways Nielsen has violated the “minimum standards for a media research ratings service” established by the MRC.
Earlier this year, the VAB charged — and the MRC confirmed — that Nielsen was undercounting viewing during the pandemic.
The reason for the undercount was the way Nielsen managed its sample homes. Because of COVID protocols, Nielsen staffers couldn’t visit those sample homes. As a result, some households were included in the ratings that shouldn’t have been, including some where no TV was watched because they had been vacated.
"We are fully committed to returning to pre-COVID operations and are working closely with and through the MRC to address any outstanding issues and requests and are committed to their process concerning accreditation," Nielsen said in a statement.
The MRC said it takes the concerns of the VAB and its members seriously.
"MRC has been actively pursuing these issues, both with our TV Committee as a whole, as well as directly with Nielsen’s management, and we plan to meet with our TV Committee again in the near future to assess where the situation with Nielsen’s National Service currently stands," the MRC said.
The MRC said that it conducts an independent accreditation process and its current assessment of the Nielsen National Television Service remains in process and that service is currently accredited.
"We will keep the marketplace informed of any subsequent actions as the situation warrants," The MRC said.
The VAB put the cost of the undercounted impressions that couldn’t be sold by the networks at more than $2 billion.
The MRC also said that Nielsen undercounted viewing in its ratings in local markets.
Since then, VAB said Nielsen’s panel has not recovered. The number of people in the sample in June was down 18% compared to February 2020.
Black and Hispanic viewers continue to be underrepresented, as do younger demos. The panel issues also affect homes with more viewers and higher viewing households.
The VAB is demanding that in order to restore the confidence of ad buyers and sellers, Nielsen need to restore its panels to pre-COVID levels, particularly among Hispanics and larger homes.
It wants an audit on the full impact reducing the size of the panel had on viewing metrics.
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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.