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State of the Screens

Will Nielsen’s Sale Get Good Ratings?

By April 7, 2022No Comments

Big news: Nielsen sold to a pair of private equity firms for ≈ $10B.

Why this matters: Nielsen has been the standard for TV measurement over the past 70 years but is currently under fire on multiple fronts.

Big question #1: Are Nielsen’s troubles new?

Quick answer: No. People have been asking questions about TV ratings since at least 1962! (h/t: @SportsTVRatings)

Big question #2: What has changed?

Quick answer: Nielsen’s panel-based approach (41K HH covering 100K people) breaks down as attention fragments across devices and content.  They are built linear TV first in a world that is rapidly shifting to digital first.

Top rated non-sports show by year (% change) according to Nielsen:
1) 1950 (Texaco Star Theater) – 61.6
2) 1960 (Gunsmoke) – 37.3 (↓ 39%)
3) 1970 (Marcus Welby, M.D.) – 29.6 (↓ 21%)
4) 1980 (Dallas) – 34.5 ( 17%)
5) 1990 (Cheers) – 21.3 (↓ 38%)
6) 2000 (Survivor) – 17.4 (↓ 18%)
7) 2010 (American Idol) – 14.5 (↓ 17%)
8) 2019 (The Big Bang Theory) – 10.6 (↓ 27%)

Why this matters: Viewership has fragmented faster than Nielsen’s measurement has evolved.

Big question #3: What is Nielsen doing about this?

Quick answer: Nielsen is launching a new measurement offering (Nielsen ONE) covering TV and streaming. In theory, this will include data from ≈ 100M smart TVs and set-top boxes.

Big question #4: Will being owned by private equity help or hurt Nielsen’s chances to compete?

Quote from Mark Zagorski – CEO @ DoubleVerify:
“The public markets are kitty cats compared to the private equity guys who will come in. They will come in and rip that company to shreds.”

Flashback #1: DoubleVerify CEO Mark Zagorski on The Future of Video Ad Measurement

Big question #5: How is the marketplace moving forward beyond Nielsen?

Quick answer: Networks including NBCUniversal, Disney, and WarnerMedia are working with multiple partners. For example, NBCUniversal released a full measurement framework outlining it’s evaluation criteria.

Big question #6: What happens in the short term?

Quick answer #1: Disney is a great example. They are an alpha partner with Nielsen ONE while also announcing a partnership with Samba TV.

Quick answer #2: NBCUniversal utilized iSpot and Nielsen during the Super Bowl.

Flashback #2: NBCUniversal Changes the Channel on Nielsen

Outstanding questions:
1) How do new panels (Hyphametrics, TVision, etc.) built for a cross-screen world impact the measurement space?
2) How should local marketers be evaluating planning/measurement offerings?

Video: Talking TV: Nielsen’s Sale And Measurement’s Fragmented Future

Michael Beach

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.