Viacom Slams Nielsen Over Digital Measurement

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman threw down the gauntlet with ratings-measurement giant Nielsen, vowing to generate more than half of the media conglomerate’s advertising revenue from non-Nielsen-related sources (up from 30%) and calling for techniques that accurately measure the growing digital content universe.

Viacom and Nielsen have had a testy relationship since 2011, when the programmer’s kids’ network Nickelodeon lost its firstever monthly ratings crown to Disney Channel. At the time, Viacom claimed that Nielsen’s measurement of Nickelodeon was inaccurate — Viacom had cited data from set-top box data measurement company Rentrak that showed higher ratings — a notion that Nielsen refuted.

While Viacom networks like MTV and Nickelodeon have experienced ratings softness, the falloff in viewership is industry-wide. Viacom, Discovery Communications and AMC Networks have all experienced double-digit ratings declines in the most recent quarter, according to Sanford Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger.

Dauman blamed some of that on Nielsen’s decision to include broadband-only homes in its sample and on increased content consumption on digital platforms that is not being measured. To that end, Viacom called for new industry standards that reflect the growth of multiplatform viewership. Dauman said Viacom hopes to achieve its non-Nielsen depe dent goal through new apps, new mobile products, dynamic ad insertion and increased sponsorship revenue.

“We are in a transitional moment where the existing measurement services have not caught up to the marketplace,” Dauman said. “They are trying to catch up; I am sure they will eventually catch up. In the meantime, we are not waiting for that.”

In an apparent response, Viacom executive vice president of global product leadership Megan Clarken blogged that the company has proposed two new standards — Total Audience and Total Commercial — to address the problem. Total Audience would combine the total audience for a program or content regardless of the mode of access, including subscription video-on-demand, while Total Commercial would count views for an ad campaign regardless of where and how it’s consumed.