NBCU’s Kelly Abcarian Is Ushering In A New Measurement Era

Kelly Abcarian, EVP of measurement and impact at NBCUniversal and one of this year’s TVNewsCheck Women in Technology Futurist Award winners, sees measurement as a “team sport” that will be “all about collaboration” that her work is helping to realize.

With Kelly Abcarian’s love of math and the truth of numbers, she is paving the way to measurement independence in the media industry.

Kelly Abcarian, EVP for measurement and impact at NBCUniversal, is developing measurement solutions that reflect an all-screen future.

Abcarian, along with Anupama Anantharaman, VP product management at Interra Systems (read her profile here), are the recipients of this year’s TVNewsCheck’s Women in Technology Futurist Award. The award, which recognizes women who have pioneered new technologies in the media industry, will be presented during an April 26 ceremony at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

She shares her passion for math and numbers with her twin sister and her younger twin sisters, and all four work with numbers in the industry. Her sisters are “doing very similar work,” she says. “I guess you could say it’s in our DNA. It’s something that really came from my Dad.”

Kelly Abcarian (second from right) with her twin sister to the left and other twin siblings on the bookends.

Growing up, she admired her father’s work. “I didn’t understand what he did exactly, but I understood he worked with numbers and computers and that fascinated me.”


She started her career as an accountant and enjoyed finding the “truth behind the numbers” and bringing forward the understandings and transparency necessary to “help make billions of dollars of business decisions.”

Abcarian joined Nielsen and oversaw the company’s national TV measurement products and helped the development and rollout of Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement strategy in 2015, aimed at changing the way the industry thinks about third-party measurement. She also drove the Advanced Video Advertising Business, a pivot from what the measurement company has historically been known for.

The AVAB, which was sold to Roku last year, was aimed at creating better advertising experiences for consumers via “technology that could truly change the way that networks could really turn television into a true addressable medium.”

And the work was a pivot for her, not just for Nielsen. Abcarian had been leading a lot of the measurement innovations for the company, and she developed a “real passion around this convergence of television and streaming” and how to “take linear television and make it to operate and execute and be measured more like digital, and that really led to the measurement work that I’m now leading up.”

About a year ago, she joined NBCUniversal, where she spearheads the company’s cross-platform and full-funnel measurement capabilities and works to provide advertisers with new opportunities to reach and target their key audiences.

Tracey Scheppach, CEO of Matter More Media, says Abcarian is a “wicked smart” client focused on how to make things better and help advertisers deliver more relevant ads to consumers.

And what Abcarian is trying to accomplish — a measurement framework that connects linear and digital data counts all the impressions and offers value to advertisers while ensuring ads are more relevant for the viewers — is valuable for the industry, she says.

“She is laser focused on creating this new era of measurement,” Scheppach says.

ACR and smart TV data are at the base of a lot of measurement capabilities that Abcarian is leaning into.

“It’s real time,” she says. “You can actually get, within hours, an understanding of ad delivery and content consumption, and it really starts to change the game around how linear TV and streaming and digital can be brought together.

“In almost near real time an agency or advertiser can really flight, optimize their campaign and really better understand how all of the impressions that they have purchased are performing across the board.”

As Abcarian puts it, “measurement is so important to get right.”

And getting those numbers right meant declaring measurement independence and breaking away from legacy measurement methods, she says. Earlier this year, after considering more than 120 proposals, NBCUniversal launched a new effort using to measure cross-platform audiences.

“It’s an exciting time to be in measurement,” Abcarian says.

Abcarian calls measurement a team sport.

“We are at the precipice of ushering in a completely new advertising measurement era, one where we can start to truly unlock the scale of the data, identity and technology to really help to advance television to catch up to the playing field of digital,” she says. “For me, the future of measurement is going to be all about collaboration.”

The future of measurement requires interoperability across companies and “bringing the best data, the best tech and the best measurement is going to be so important as we move ahead. And this is exactly what we did for the Olympics and the Super Bowl,” she says.

Two companies involved in that were and Conviva.

“What we proved during the Olympics and the Super Bowl is that two separate measurement companies could come together for a greater good to bring better data in which to lead to better measurement and better results,” she says.

Conviva President-CEO Keith Zubchevich, who has worked with Abcarian since her Nielsen days, calls her a visionary and an innovator.

Way before most executives were thinking about streaming, he says, Abcarian knew streaming “was going to be big or even replace the television model, and that’s happening.”

And measurement companies would need technologies that could handle the challenges of streaming, he says.

“Being a visionary is one thing. It means see something. Innovation means you can build toward that, to construct that vision by innovating,” he says. “She’s exceptional at both.”

Abcarian says she has always “had a predisposition to fight for what people would consider the underdog, and I didn’t see it that way.”

She believes it is her responsibility to use her platform and her voice for good. She advocates for LGBTQ and maternity rights for all women.

Abcarian’s dogs Hank, Sadie and Harley ready to head to the home office to work on changing measurement.

She and her husband have two daughters and three large dogs. Having the dogs around helped her get through COVID.

“Times were tough, and when you’re kind of feeling disconnected from it all, there’s nothing like petting your dog and getting a few licks,” she says.

Read the profiles of the other five 2022 honorees here.

In a webinar on Wednesday, April 13, this year’s Women in Technology Award winners shared thoughts on everything from multi-cloud strategies to the rise of machine learning in television workflows to how NFTs, Web3 and the metaverse may affect TV production. Watch the full video here.

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