VAB Sees Increase in Reported Viewing as Nielsen ‘Fixes’ Sample

VAB Nielsen Ratings COVID
VAB says this chart shows Total TV Usage moving up after Nielsen resumed in-home visits to sample homes in March (Image credit: VAB)

Networks and distributors represented by the VAB, after complaining that Nielsen under-reported TV usage during the pandemic, said that reported TV usage has turned up noticeably since Nielsen resumed at-home servicing of its sample homes.

The VAB said that during the pandemic, Nielsen’s estimate of Total homes using television dropped because 9,400 homes in Nielsen’s sample weren’t properly supervised. 

“Less than a month later, the effects on effects on Nielsen’s Total Homes Using Television measure, which saw steady COVID period declines throughout 2020, have already started to reverse in April 2021, VAB CEO Sean Cunningham said.

Nielsen said the changes in the sample resulting from COVID disrupting how it interacts with homes didn’t have a significant impact on its numbers.

The VAB said the new data proved its claims about impaired measurement were justified.

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“For months, Nielsen has both denied and delayed the VAB’s repeated calls for reviews and transparency,” Cunningham said. “While this recent reversal of its exaggerated 2020 TUT declines are an important start, it is only one piece of a much larger issue. The MRC audit, that is currently underway, is the right next step toward providing the advertising marketplace with meaningful insights and remedies to Nielsen’s 2020 COVID TV currency audience estimates.”

Nielsen reiterated that it is working with the MRC to get to get the industry's questions about COVID viewing answered.

"Nielsen is and has been fully engaged, in collaboration with the MRC, industry partners and clients, to provide the advertising marketplace with transparent and meaningful insights into Nielsen’s 2020 COVID TV currency audience estimates," a Nielsen spokesperson said.

"Last year, as communities around the world were impacted by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we innovated our panel procedures to protect the safety of our panelists and field staff and the integrity of our ratings, developing new ways to recruit and maintain our panels," the spokesperson said. "We were able to return to pre-COVID processes and procedures in March this year. We will share a detailed analysis for review with the MRC and our clients, and feel confident we will continue to provide the industry with the data they rely upon to transact with confidence."

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.