Nielsen In Hot Water With NYC Broadcasters

The ratings firm met last Friday with representatives of New York City stations to explain how it plans to improve the ratings by increasing the sample homes and perhaps deploying new PPM technology that make use of program audio to track what people are watching. The meeting followed concerns of the broadcasters that the June ratings were down 20% from the prior year in the key adults 25-54 demo.

Last Friday, Nielsen publicly acknowledged that its national TV ratings since March were flawed and that it would be reissuing the numbers at the same time as its arch-rival Rentrak was boasting of a big investment by WPP and watching its stock price soar.

That was just part of Nielsen’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Earlier in the day, at a meeting in New York, more than a dozen Nielsen executives tried to placate a large contingent of unhappy New York broadcasters who have been complaining about a sudden drop off in ratings in the No. 1 DMA last spring.

According to one broadcaster in attendance, in June the stations’ aggregate ratings fell around 20% over the prior year in the key adults 25-54 demo, a loss of 2,250 ratings points that is having a big impact on revenue.

Nielsen did not promise to reissue any numbers at the meeting, the broadcaster said, but talked about improving the ratings by increasing the sample homes and perhaps deploying new PPM technology that makes use of program audio to track what people are watching.

In response to questions about the meeting from TVNewsCheck, Nielsen issued a statement attributed to Matt O’Grady, Nielsen’s EVP and managing director of local media, among those at the meeting.


The statement acknowledges that Nielsen has had a “series of meetings” with New York broadcasters on what Nielsen is “doing to improve and expand our measurement capabilities for local media,” but it doesn’t address the broadcasters’ specific complaints about the spring ratings shortfall or what Nielsen might do about them.

“Capturing a representative measurement of how consumers are viewing video across all types of platforms is the No. 1 priority for Nielsen,” the statement says. “We are increasing our sample sizes and have announced 60 markets thus far — including New York — where we are adding tablet and smartphone viewing of local TV content to the ratings, and actively evaluating big data sources to add greater stability.  

“We are also testing the inclusion of out-of-home viewing, and more granular qualitative data to the mix. The viewing pie is expanding and our goal is to ensure that the ratings pie grows, as well.”

In addition to O’Grady, the large Nielsen delegation at the Friday meeting included Steve Hasker, global president; Brian West, COO; and Lynda Clarizo, president, U.S. media.

Among those on the broadcast side on the table were the heads of the Big Three O&O groups — Rebecca Campbell of ABC, Peter Dunn of CBS and Valari Staab of NBC — as well as the GMs of WABC and WNBC — Dave Davis and Michael Jack. Dunn doubles as the GM of WCBS.

Lew Leone, GM of WYNW and WWOR, represented Fox, while Bob Marra, station manager of WPIX, reportedly was there for Tribune.

Comments (7)

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Shenee Howard says:

October 14, 2014 at 8:58 am

Wouldn’t Cablevision, TWC and Comcast be able to provide more accurate data from monitoring STB and DVRs which they claim to do when adding/deleting cable channels based on viewership? It would seem more reliable.

Curtis Tamkin says:

October 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

TV stations can’t accept reality & truth so they want the BS machine to stay in denial mode? What a shock. Oh, btw, you might want to correctly spell Peter Dunn’s name, there’s no “e” at the end. I mean, he is a pretty big wheel at the cracker factory.

none none says:

October 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

…”Thanks for calling Rentrak, how may I help you?”

    Keith ONeal says:

    October 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    “Yeah, I have representatives from the O&O stations (ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC) here in New York City, who are more than ready to dump Nielsen and subscribe to Rentrax; they want to know what the process is.”

Patrick Burns says:

October 14, 2014 at 11:15 am

I am seriously looking at Rentrak. Older people like my late Gran Ma , draw a Line from Mon thru Friday & write news.
I know this from first hand.

The ability or interest of people to keep an accurate diary goes against human nature, It’s an intrusion & ignore how much channel flipping we do. Mkts from 75 down have Nielsens that really are best guesses,

The audience & viewing is like a ocean of choices & the tide & waves ebb & flow.

If you buy TV buy Frequency tonnage cause the BIG tune in is a fable . perpetuated by NSI & the big nets.

I am not even getting how ROKU has shattered my network habits.

NY City stations should get a rebate in 6 figures or cancel, period.

Doug Halonen says:

October 15, 2014 at 1:17 am

Harry, this is the other shoe dropping regarding Nielsen’s purchase of Arbitron. The latter had all the technology years ago but was so afraid of Nielsen that it barely promoted its own product. The audio matching was up and running more than five years ago. Scientifically the most elegant solution is also the simplest. Arbitron’s portable people meter, which Nielsen disparaged years ago, is still miles and years ahead of any device on the market.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    October 16, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    For a PR Maven, why are your facts on this all incorrect? PPM, though the technology was owned by Arbitron, was in beta as a joint venture of Arbitron and Nielsen in the late 90s and early 00’s. Nielsen pulled out as they did not trust Arbitron. Arbitron was never scared of Nielsen – and crowed their product for a Public IPO….and promoted it ever since to boost it’s stock price, until Nielsen finally purchased them outright.

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