Megan Clarken

Nielsen Gets Accreditation for ‘Digital in TV Ratings'

MRC approves another part of Total Audience Measurement

Seeking support for its new Total Audience Measurement, Nielsen announced a second part of that system has been given the seal of approval from the Media Rating Council.

The MRC granted accreditation to Nielsen’s Digital in TV Ratings, which measures live and delayed linear TV commercial viewing on desktops and mobile devices.

That viewing is added to viewing on TV sets to calculate C3 and C7 ratings used to buy and sell advertising time. It is based on a combination of census-level data, demographics and the representative panels of viewers in Nielsen homes with people meters.

Related: Nielsen Closes Gracenote Acquisition

Digital in TV Ratings, launched in 2015, is currently being used by clients including ABC, CBS, Freeform and Univision.

The TV industry is looking to measure all TV viewing, whenever, wherever and on whatever device. Nielsen thinks its Total Audience Measurement system is the answer. But networks led by NBCUniversal have balked at another Nielsen metric—Total Content Ratings—in part because there are some types of viewing that are still not being measured and because not all distributors have added the software Nielsen needs to measure viewing to their digital video players.

Getting the MRC checkmark is important to Nielsen. “It’s a big deal because that metric is used to trade billions and billions of dollars’ worth of advertising and that audiences are fragmenting across [digital] devices,” said Megan Clarken, president of product leadership at Nielsen. "Through our Total Audience program we’ve been instrumenting measurements across platforms and this is the validation of the methods we’ve been using to do that.”

Related: AT&T Signs New Nielsen Deal Including Set-Top Data

“With this validation of its measurement of TV programming viewed on computers and mobile devices, Nielsen has taken an important step in its efforts to meet the needs of the marketplace to have a fuller view into the consumption of TV programming across platforms, regardless of how it is being consumed,” said George Ivie, executive director of the MRC.

Digital in TV Ratings is the second component of Total Audience to get MRC approval. The first was Digital Ad Ratings.

While some networks have expressed reservations, other networks are already using Digital in TV Ratings so that they can sell ads based on a combination of viewing on traditional TV plus digital viewing.

“We’ve seen undeniable changes in content consumption behavior, and, more than ever, ensuring we have measurement capabilities in the industry to adequately capture audience digital & linear viewing is critical. Nielsen’s MRC accreditation reaffirms the importance of transparent and accountable TV ratings for digital, especially as companies like Univision serve our respective audiences whenever and wherever they choose,” said Jed Meyer, executive VP of corporate research at Univision Communications.

Industry complaints about Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings—which measure how many people see a piece of content across all platforms—led to a delay in syndicating the data in March. Instead the data will have a limited release, with networks being able to choose what viewing is included in data shared with media buying agencies.

Total Content Ratings aren’t designed to be used to buy and sell ads like C3 and C7.

Big media agency GroupM is leading an effort to adopt a new currency that would count a broader range of commercial viewing on both linear and non-linear platforms. GroupM, working with the Video Advertising Bureau, is calling their metric Unified C7. Unified C7 would count ad viewing in content in some cases when the ad load is not identical to the ad load when the program was originally broadcast.

Clarken says Nielsen’s Total Audience capability “is all about giving us flexibility to be able to add or take out” pieces. If the industry wants to use Unified C7 as currency, “we have the ability to do that. Provided with the rules, and we’ll credit the ad load depending on those rules.”

Clarken adds that with Digital Ad Ratings and now Digital in TV Ratings getting MRC approval, Nielsen is more confident that other parts of Total Audience including Total Content Ratings will pass muster when they get submitted for accreditation.