VAB Asks Nielsen Not To Use Amazon Data To Measure ‘Thursday Night Football’

An Amazon camera at a 'Thursday Night Football' game in 2022
A camera with Prime Video signage at Houston's NRG Stadium for a 2022 'Thursday Night Football' telecast. (Image credit: rian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), representing television networks, asked Nielsen not to go forward with its plan to incorporate viewing data from Amazon when coming up with the audience estimates advertisers will use to determine how much they pay for commercials on Thursday Night Football on Amazon’s Prime Video.

Last year, Nielsen’s audience figures for Thursday Night Football were smaller than Amazon’s own estimates for how many people were watching the telecasts during Prime Video’s first season as the exclusive national outlet for the NFL package. They were also well short of the ratings generated when the games were broadcast on Fox.

The VAB said using Amazon-generated first-party data gives Prime Video an unfair advantage over the networks that carry NFL games.

“We see Nielsen’s articulated NFL plans for Amazon (intended to be activated by the Sept. 7th opening of the ‘23/‘24 NFL season) as Nielsen clearly forcing changes into a highly valued, highly visible, ultra-competitive multibillion-dollar sports content arena; changes that will greatly benefit one Nielsen client (Amazon) while negatively impacting multiple Nielsen clients (all remainder NFL programmers, distributors & ad sellers),“ the VAB said in the letter, addressed to Karthik Rao, CEO of Nielsen Audience Measurement.

The VAB said that Nielsen’s plan “has the effect of tipping the scales in Amazon’s favor versus its NFL programming/advertising competitors.”

The VAB also pointed out a number of statistical differences between Amazon’s data and Nielsen’s own data. It noted that co-viewing of TNF on Amazon was 28% higher than all other national sports programs, on average, and that TNF scored higher in homes with traditional TV set-top boxes than other NFL games. 

“While asked by many of our major members (including NFL programmers) to justify, explain, rationalize or prove any of the above, Nielsen has not given any level of meaningful detail that proves any of it is correct,” the VAB said.

The VAB said it is in favor of using first-party data as part of measuring audiences, but it must be done the right way.

“There are significant upsides to marketers in measurement, currency, precision audience-based buying, and data-driven full-funnel marketing/analysis that the proper infusion of first-party data from as many publishers as possible will create,“ the VAB said. “Those wins will come by having all first-party ad video sell-side players playing by the same rules, all accomplished in extremely well-lit and evenly lit end-to-end processes; that is the only way to proceed that assures both the marketer wins and the best level of fair competition across publishers. We are calling on Nielsen to not go forward with its plans to unfairly force first-party data from Amazon’s TNF property into the NFL third-party data sets.”

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.