The ratings rivals explain to broadcasters what they have in store to improve and expand their services and address the five biggest concerns of stations regarding measurement: ratings inconsistency, sample size, demo issues, modeling of ratings and too many methodologies.
There’s little wonder that the TVB Forward conference bookended a panel session on measurement with two separate interviews featuring executives from Nielsen and ComScore.
Nielsen recently filed a lawsuit against its rival, alleging that ComScore is using Nielsen personal people meter data in violation of agreements between the two companies.
The conference session format allowed the dueling duo a chance to explain when they are rolling out new services and address some critical questions for broadcasters.
Hadassa Gerber, SVP and chief research officer at TVB, spotlighted some results from a recent TVB survey of its members as a way to get at the touchy issues.
When asked whether local TV measurement issues were holding them back, 87% of the respondents replied either “possibly” or “absolutely.”
Those surveyed listed five major issues related to measurement: ratings inconsistency, sample size, demo issues, modeling of ratings and too many methodologies.
Jeff Wender, managing director of local media at Nielsen, responded to the survey results by saying: “Everything we’re going to be introducing in the next several months will address a lot of these concerns.”
Nielsen intends to do this plans to install nearly 15,000 television audience meters in approximately 7,000 homes across the 140 markets currently measured by local TV paper diaries. The installation of these meters is designed to provide coverage needed to address the limitations of solely using set-top-box data for audience measurement in markets.
It will take a little longer to convert smaller markets to electronic measurement and get rid of paper diaries. “Over-the-air viewership is a critical element, especially in smaller diary markets. We find that 20% — sometimes a much larger percentage — comes from over-the-air households in smaller markets,” Wender said.
In fact, 50% of news viewership can come from those OTA households in smaller markets, he said. So it will take some time to make sure the measurement is accurate.
Right now, the plan is to introduce electronic meters or code readers in smaller markets during the first half of 2018, and Nielsen is working with broadcasters to figure out when to cut over to the meters completely, avoiding critical times like during Olympics telecasts.
One of Nielsen’s biggest challenges is making sure that return-path data from set-top boxes is accurate. To tackle that, Nielsen created a system called Common Homes, which takes metered data from households that are part of Nielsen’s panels and then compares it with STB data from the same homes to see how closely the stats match up.
Third-party data from companies like Experian helps Nielsen understand who lives in the home. Even data from these third-party have bias that Nielsen corrects by using its panels and common home analysis.
“There are boxes that are 13 or 14 years old,” Wender said. That leads to measurement inaccuracies. In some markets, programming on two or three stations is attributed to just one station. And with time-shifted viewing, as much as 26% of the viewership isn’t measured, he said. There are similar issues with STB data related to viewers’ age and ethnicity.
Bill Livek, executive vice chairman and president of ComScore, expressed a different view. “Set-top boxes are pretty accurate,” he said. “We have a set-top lab in Portland, Ore. Every set-top device that’s in consumer’s hands is in our lab to make sure that all the boxes are functioning in an appropriate way.”
ComScore uses multiple credit rating services — each of which have different data about consumers — and makes a determination about which provides the most accurate numbers in different circumstances, said Livek, who spent a number of years working for one of them, Experian.
Livek explained that there are thousands of models that can be used to determine the most accurate numbers, some of which relate to the duration and genre of a given program. Data can also be thrown off by households in which the box isn’t turned off when the TV is turned off.
ComScore also plans to address another problem, the lack of pure demographic information about individuals in its database. Livek dropped word that the company is planning to roll out panels to address the issue without giving a time frame for doing so.
Another problem ComScore has to address is a lack of over-the-air data. Livek explained that the company does an annual survey in individual markets to find out how much of the viewing is done OTA. ComScore is rolling out small metered devices to capture the OTA viewership “at some point in time.” When that time will come, he was unwilling to say.
Livek also reported that in next year’s first quarter, ComScore is introducing a new cross-platform news product for stations.
“Long-term where we want to go is to have a local market measurement system that not only takes television, but takes all of digital and local [print] publishers along with advanced targets. That’s a ways off, but that’s where we want to go,” he said.
Read all of TVNewsCheck’s TVB Forward 2017 coverage here.