Nielsen Adds Streaming Data From Connected TVs to Media Planning Service

But the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) isn’t budging on its criticism of ratings company


Nielsen, the embattled TV ratings currency company, is adding in streaming data from connected TVs to its Nielsen Media Impact (NMI) media planning tool. The effort intends to “allow advertisers, agencies, and media owners to better understand the full cross-platform audience reach of TV, digital, radio, print, out-of-home, and now even more robust streaming channels in their media planning scenarios,” Nielsen said on Wednesday.

That, in theory, will make negotiating prices for commercial time more fair to ad-supported content platforms. For those doing the advertising, an enhancement to the flawed current system will allow for more specific targeting of audiences.

According to Nielsen’s latest The Gauge report, consumers are spending an average of 180 billion minutes per week streaming content. So that’s a whole lot of viewing that wasn’t covered under the old system.

“Nielsen is committed to helping the industry make data-informed decisions about their media plans that maximize efficiency and drive results,” Jay Nielsen, senior vice president of Planning Products at Nielsen, said on Wednesday as part of the announcement. “With streaming data from the TV glass now available directly in our media planning tool, clients can more easily reach advanced audiences and navigate the fast changing landscape with the confidence that they’re spending every dollar as effectively as possible.”

Sean Cunningham, the skeptical president and CEO of Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), isn’t particularly sold — or impressed — by what he called “another bolt-on to an already overstressed national panel that’s proving ever-more inadequate.”

“Nielsen enters an already-crowded cross-platform TV measurement and currency provider arena with a distinct disadvantage versus the rocketing census-level cross-platform competitors; their Streaming Meter is another bolt-on to an already overstressed national panel that’s proving ever-more inadequate to measuring the expanding multiplicity of viewer options for TV content and ads,” Cunningham said in a statement sent to media. “The 2022 scale for confidence in cross-platform TV measurement and currency begins with a base in the tens-of-millions and requires transparency and fluid disclosures. By contrast, a streaming sub-set that is a fractional portion of a legacy panel base in the tens-of-thousands with very little transparency or disclosures is always going to result in considerably lower cross-platform truth set confidence by all constituencies in the TV ad marketplace.”

Cunningham’s company, which represents the major TV networks, has been a particularly vocal critic of Nielsen’s antiquated viewership-measurement systems. Last month, the VAB published a study that found Nielsen undercounted out-of-home viewership so much, it cost the networks $700 million. And that’s just the out-of-home viewing over a 16-month period. And it was just one recent Nielsen blunder.

“Nielsen’s last two admitted errors combined may have taken over $2 billion worth of TV ads out of the 2020-2021 marketplace just as Nielsen was first denying and then downplaying it all,” Cunningham said at the time. “These combined Nielsen errors of wrong numbers and minimal disclosure need to serve as the opposite example of what the buy/sell multiscreen TV marketplace needs from its next set of currency providers, including Nielsen.”

“We reviewed the information shared by the VAB today, and while we acknowledge the understatement in a portion of our National out-of-home audiences, we stand by our prior statements that the magnitude of the issue was very small for the majority of telecasts,” Nielsen said in a statement back then.