In an email to media agencies obtained by TVNewsCheck, Gray VP of National Sales Becky Meyer says it will allow its current contract with Nielsen to expire on Dec. 31 because “it does not have sufficient confidence in the new methodology.”
Gray Television says it is dropping Nielsen at the end of the year and will rely on Nielsen rival Comscore for tracking viewership of its stations.
It has been a good-news, bad-news day for Nielsen. It started with ratings service’s announcement that it had renewed its contract with Hearst Television, but that news was overshadowed by reports that CBS was considering dropping it.
And, now, in an email to media agencies obtained by TVNewsCheck, Gray VP of National Sales Becky Meyer says it will allow its current contract with Nielsen to expire on Dec. 31 because “it does not have sufficient confidence in the new methodology.”
“Meanwhile, through our use of Comscore systems in about two dozen markets over the past few years, we have seen data that appears to reflect more accurately consumer viewership of those stations across multiple platforms.”
Nielsen has been working hard for the past several years in eliminating the much-maligned paper diaries for tracking local TV viewing and replacing them with various electronic methods.
Asked for comment on the loss of Gray, Jeff Wender, managing director, Nielsen local, did not directly address it. “We have implemented a series of enhancements over the past year including retiring diaries and launching a local cross-platform planning solution to make the process of buying local tv and radio more efficient. We continue to work closely with our clients across all local markets nationwide to ensure our measurement meets their needs and allows them to transact with confidence.”
Reports of Nielsen non-renewals are sometimes examples of broadcasters’ negotiating in the press. Late in 2017, Sinclair floated the story that it was not renewing Nielsen at the end of the year. Yet, in February it reupped.
While confirming the email, Gray COO Bob Smith assured this reporter that the decision was final, saying it was based the “inconsistency of the Nielsen numbers. We had the overwhelming supports of our managers in all 57 markets. The made it clear they would like to go to Comscore.”
Gray’s action could be a double hit for Nielsen. Gray is in the process of merging with Raycom Media, but until that deal closes Gray cannot make any decisions for Raycom.
However, after closing, it seems likely that Gray would drop Nielsen for Comscore in at least the smaller Raycom markets, keeping the service for Cleveland, Charlotte and Tampa-St. Petersburg.
Gray now operates more than 100 stations in 57 markets. Together, Gray and Raycom combined will operate 133 stations in 92 markets.
Gray is a bit of a maverick when it comes to sales. In 2016, it decided to drop its rep firm (Katz) and handle all national sales in-house.
“We will continue to monitor, and where possible, participate actively in advancements in viewership measurement (as well as automated order processing),” the email says. “Likewise, we will work directly with our stations and work closely with our media partners to ensure a smooth transition to Comscore measurement systems for all Gray stations.
“We appreciate your support as we continue to improve the television viewing and buying experiences.”