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Nielsen to Offer Commercial Ratings

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NEW YORK Nielsen will begin supplying national commercial ratings starting in the fall, the company confirmed today.

If the networks and advertisers can agree on a standard, the commercial ratings could be used as currency to buy and sell ads by as early as the start of the 2007-08 TV season.

But for now, program ratings will continue to be the currency for ad transactions.

A Nielsen representative said it received requests from all five major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, CW, NBC and Fox) for commercial ratings based on live viewership plus seven days of recorded DVR playback viewing. Nielsen will begin delivering that data "sometime this fall," the rep said. That will give the industry about a year to analyze the data before deciding whether or not to use it as currency in the following season.

The commercial ratings will provide the average audience for all paid national ads airing during each program transmitted by national broadcast and cable networks, the Nielsen rep said.

The current upfront market was stalled for several weeks as buyers and sellers fought over whether ads for the 2006-07 season would be based on live program ratings or live plus seven day program ratings. The buyers stood firm, the networks relented, and the market began and is ongoing.

Back in March, it was WPP's GroupM which first proposed that Nielsen begin supplying the industry with commercial ratings. "It is something we feel is necessary in order to fully analyze the value of delayed viewing," said Lyle Schwartz, broadcast director and managing partner at GroupM agency Mediaedge:cia.

Nielsen said it could also supply commercial ratings based on live ratings or same day, although the rep was unaware any current requests for that data. Schwartz said GroupM probably wouldn't buy ads based on live plus seven day ratings of any kind, program or commercial. More likely: live plus one day or up to three days depending on what the analysis shows after the commercial ratings become available.

"The important thing is Nielsen is now producing the data so that we can analyze the economic impact in the marketplace," said Schwartz. "We are definitely making progress."