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Media Rating Council Suspends Nielsen’s National TV Ratings Accreditation

Decision comes after ratings currency company proactively put itself in MRC jail

The Media Rating Council (MRC) has suspended its accreditation of Nielsen’s National Television service. Furthermore, it has suspended the accreditation for Nielsen’s Local People Meter and Set Meter Markets services, which previously had their accreditations on “hiatus.” Each of those suspensions will become effective in mid-September.

“The Media Rating Council (MRC) responded to Nielsen’s request for a hiatus in accreditation with a vote to suspend our National TV Ratings service, as well as our Local TV Ratings service. While we are disappointed with this outcome, the suspension will not impact the usability of our data,” a spokesperson for Nielsen said in a statement. “Nielsen remains the currency of choice for media companies, advertisers and agencies. We are committed to the audit process and during this pause in accreditation we will work with the MRC on resolving this suspension. We will also take the opportunity to focus on innovating our core products and continue to deliver data that clients can rely on, ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry.”

Here, readers can find a letter that Nielsen CEO David Kenny sent out to his company’s clients on Wednesday.

Basically, the MRC found that Nielsen’s national TV ratings (and local people meter and set meter markets results) weren’t up to snuff in terms of accuracy of measurement, and thus were not suitable for use in negotiations between media buyers (representing advertisers) and sellers (the networks selling commercial time).

Nielsen numbers will still be used in negotiations and still be reported by media outlets like TheWrap. This is more of an official notice to proceed with caution when relying — especially solely — on the company’s data.

“While we are disappointed that the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” George W. Ivie, executive director and CEO of the MRC, said in a statement on Wednesday.  “MRC’s Board of Directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters. MRC stands committed in our willingness to work with Nielsen toward the goal of being able to restore accreditation to these important services at the earliest possible time, and it is our hope that Nielsen likewise will continue to engage with MRC and its clients in pursuit of that goal.”

“The united buy/sell marketplace decision to suspend Nielsen’s national and local market accreditation must be seen by Nielsen as a loud change-or-die challenge,” Sean Cunningham, the president and CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), said in a statement shared with TheWrap on Wednesday. “In fact, all measurement and currency providers with big future aspirations in the video advertising sector must take the 2021 mandate for real transparency, full and deep audience capture, urgent innovation and rigorous verification as mission-critical for them all. Advertisers should expect to see more innovation in the next three years in video measurement and currency than what was achieved in the last 30 years, time has officially expired on friction and frustration.”

The VAB effectively represents TV networks in matters such as the ongoing beef with the ratings currency company. It was Cunningham’s group that initially asked the Media Ratings Council to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation. Well, wish granted.

Last week, a top NBCU data executive, Kelly Abcarian, called for the industry to “declare measurement independence” from Nielsen. We’re not there — at least not yet — but things have not been trending in Nielsen’s favor.

Read Abcarian’s full blog post here.

Nielsen has come under fire recently over its measurement capabilities and the company was found to have undercounted viewers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nielsen’s total usage of television by adults 18-49 — the demographic a majority of ad prices are based on — was understated by 2% to 6% during February, which was the timeframe the MRC used to conduct its previous (to this investigation) audit of Nielsen. Additionally, the MRC believes that “persons using television” among that same age group was understated by 1% to 5%.

As the MRC’s mission statement begins, the Media Rating Council is a non-profit industry association established in 1963 comprised of leading television, radio, print and digital media companies, as well as advertisers, advertising agencies and trade associations, whose goal is to ensure measurement services that are valid, reliable and effective.