US networks at war over ratings data during pandemic

A fascinating stoush has emerged in the US over the collection of ratings data, during the pandemic.

CBS, ABC, NBC and other TV networks want Nielsen to submit to an audit by Ernst and Young, according to Variety.

At issue is a Nielsen decision to keep its field agents out of the homes that participate in the company’s measurement process. Insights company VAB, which represents networks to advertisers, is concerned that Nielsen did not maintain its outreach to households, and also believe the company counted homes that residents may have left during the pandemic as Americans relocated to be closer to family.

“Nielsen is committed to providing reliable and accurate data to the media industry. We received VAB’s letter and we are in the process of evaluating our next steps,” the company said in a statement.

In July of last year, Nielsen reversed a last-minute decision to not implement a new measure of “out of home” viewing, citing the pandemic’s effects on viewership in pubs, bars & offices as a reason to delay launch of the new system.

In Australia OzTAM also delayed its new VOZ “total TV” measurement, thwarted by access to homes in lockdown and now plans a June launch.

Last July Nielsen was hacked in Australia and held to ransom, causing numbers to be delayed to industry a full week. None was lost.

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