A Houston car dealer buying ads on La Femme Nikita might want to check to see how much audience he's getting, the Television Bureau of Advertising suggests.
"The Nielsen numbers reported for cable networks include audiences viewing those programs over ADS [alternative delivery systems such as DBS and microwave]. While ADS subscribers can see the commercials on local broadcast stations, they do not receive local commercials on non-broadcast programming. This hidden factor represents an overstatement of cable's delivery for local advertisers," said TVB President Chris Rohrs.
TVB and NAB have asked for help. "We've been talking to Nielsen about publishing those numbers in component parts: wired cable and alternative delivery systems, which is almost all satellite. It's more important now, as the subscription levels of DBS grow. The presumption [for local advertisers] is that it's all cable."
"They're right," said Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus. "We do include a note in local reports that alerts the marketplace to this situation, but advertisers who buy local time do need to be vigilant. Those numbers do include satellite subscribers who don't receive the same commercials on non-broadcast cable programming. We are working to change that as we rewrite our local reporting system software." Nielsen estimates there are as many as 25 markets with 15% or more satellite penetration and 25 markets with 20% or more.
Joe Ostrow, president of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, called the issue "nonsense," saying cable is the real victim of under-reporting. "The bigger problem in local audience measurement is the use of diaries that misstate the cable audience by at least 40%."