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VAB Tells Members Nielsen Isn’t The Only Viewer Data Source

Nielsen building in Canada
(Image credit: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Scalable Grid Engine - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88467132)

In the middle of its battle with Nielsen over under-counting viewing since the pandemic, the trade group representing the big networks and distributors has sent its members a report on how to use new metrics from sources other than Nielsen to measure and qualify audiences.

The VAB report, called A Fresh Take on Quantifying TV Audiences, was done in partnership with iSpot.tv, which focuses on measuring who is watching advertising using automatic content recognition technology to collect data from millions of Vizio smart TVs.

"This report was sent out to demonstrate how different metrics, particularly ad ratings, can quantify audiences. In our quest to provide the marketplace with a full perspective of TV viewership, we frequently utilize different approaches to TV audience measurement to ensure greater accuracy and expose marketers to new metrics," a VAB spokesperson said. 

Also Read: Another Nielsen Critic: iSpot Says Ad Ratings Rose During COVID

iSpot is one of dozens of newer companies offering ways to track viewing using more modern methodologies than Nielsen's sample panel-based systems. Its data is already being used by networks including NBCU and Discovery to help clients track the effectiveness of their campaigns.

The VAB this week asked the Media Rating Council to suspend its accreditation of Nielsen's National Rating Service. 

The VAB claimed that Nielsen didn't monitor its panel properly because it couldn't visit sample homes in person because of COVID protocols. As a result homes with little or no watching were included in the sample that should not have been. The result was data from Nielsen showing a drop in television usage during a pandemic that kept people home watching TV.

The MRC investigated the situation with Nielsen and agreed that TV audiences were being undercounted.

Nielsen promised to remedy the situation but VAB charges that little has changed. As a result, it is asking that Nielsen’s accreditation be suspended.

With Nielsen data being questioned, the VAB put out a report highlighting iSpot’s system for measuring TV audiences. It also reports that iSpot’s data shows that the number of chances brands had to reach households increased during the year of the pandemic by 6% year over year.

iSpot’s data also shows that viewers spent time watching TV in more dayparts and discovered and embraced new genres of programming and innovative formats that they might not have typically watched previously.

The VAB report offers some takeaways to people in the advertising business used to working with Nielsen data. 

It suggests that they “evaluate and understand the different approaches to TV audience measurement and the underlying methodologies of data providers within the ecosystem.”

The report advises that they “utilize multiple audience measurement providers when planning and buying your video investments to ensure a higher level of data accuracy.”

Finally it says “continually, and rigorously, analyze these multiple third-party data sources to ensure greater transparency, accuracy and accountability through the buying process.” 

“This report was sent out to demonstrate how different metrics, particularly ad ratings, can quantify audiences. In our quest to provide the marketplace with a full perspective of TV viewership, we frequently utilize different approaches to TV audience measurement to ensure greater accuracy and expose marketers to new metrics," a VAB spokesperson said. 

VAB iSpot.TV Nielsen Report

(Image credit: VAB ISpot)
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.